exterior of Dickson Hall
News and Announcements

University Launches First-of-Its-Kind Harm Reduction Certificate Program

Graduate-level certificate will educate students on harm reduction practices

Posted in: Harm Reduction, Homepage News and Events, Social Work and Child Advocacy

Hands typing on laptop

The College of Humanities and Social Sciences at Montclair State University has launched a first-of-its-kind online graduate-level certificate titled “Harm Reduction Approaches to Substance Abuse,” which will be available beginning September 2023.

This will be the nation’s first program designed to certify students and professionals in the practices and principles of harm reduction strategies to fight the drug overdose crisis. Through the certificate program, students will research the effectiveness of ongoing/proposed harm reduction intervention programs, and those who are interested will also have opportunities to engage in firsthand harm reduction practices through volunteer experience.

The certificate will introduce students and professionals to a harm reduction approach to substance use disorder, discuss a range of harm reduction services and programs, and offer training on de-stigmatizing, social justice-oriented, trauma-informed engagement strategies with people who use drugs.

“The goal of this first-of-its-kind certificate is to address a gap in knowledge among students from various human services disciplines by providing comprehensive training in harm reduction as an evidence-informed approach to substance use disorder intervention,” says Social Work and Child Advocacy Professor Svetlana Shpiegel. “Montclair State University has a vital role to play in addressing the public health needs not only in our nearby counties but the entire state of New Jersey. And as educators, it is our duty to use our resources to help educate our community about evidence-based tools to prevent and address chaotic drug use.”

Gov. Phil Murphy, recognizing the importance of harm reduction practices, signed a package of bills in 2022 that introduced harm reduction principles in the state’s fight against opioid overdoses. He further expanded on these efforts by introducing the Narcan 365 program to distribute naloxone for free across the state. With the creation of this certificate, students at Montclair and substance use professionals now have the opportunity to learn about these programs and take action in their communities to help reduce the unnecessary death toll.

“For too long, the ‘Just Say No’ approach to drugs has been the only message our students hear from their educators regarding drug use, leading to unsafe drug use across our communities,” says Kelly LaBar, Project Coordinator at CARES. “The time has come for us to take matters into our own hands in order to stop the unnecessary death toll. By having this online certificate, we can give people across the country the tools to fight back against the overdose epidemic and the unjust War on Drugs that perpetuates the cycle of death and suffering.”

The development of this certificate was supported by a grant from Vital Strategies – a leading international nonprofit dedicated to advancing public health. The development of this certificate was informed by an advisory council of researchers, practitioners and people with firsthand experience with substance use.

For more information on the Harm Reduction Approaches to Substance Abuse certificate program, visit montclair.edu/graduate/programs-of-study/harm-reduction-cert.