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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

UCC extends enrollment period for grad program in substance abuse counseling

Central University of the Caribbean in Bayamón

By The Star Staff

In an effort to train more health professionals specialized in the control and prevention of substance use and abuse in the face of the challenge that Puerto Rico is facing with the longstanding public health problem, Central University of the Caribbean (UCC by its Spanish initials) President Waleska Crespo Rivera on Monday announced the extension of the enrollment period for its graduate program in substance abuse counseling.

“Substance abuse is an important risk factor for various health problems, including heart disease, stroke, cancer and mental illness,” Crespo emphasized. “Therefore, training and specialization in this topic is pertinent and necessary.”

She also noted that around 200,000 people in Puerto Rico have a substance use disorder. Meanwhile, according to an article published by the New York Times, for the first time on record cannabis has surpassed alcohol as the daily drug of choice for people in the United States.

In 2022, 17.7 million people reported using cannabis either every day or almost every day, compared to 14.7 million who reported using alcohol with the same frequency, according to a new study. Although many more people consume alcoholic beverages than use cannabis, frequent drinking has become slightly less common than about 15 years ago, new research reveals. But the proportion of people in the United States who frequently use marijuana has increased 15-fold over the past three decades.

According to the National Center for Health Workforce Analysis, the demand for addiction counselors is expected to increase 21% by 2030, resulting in a shortfall of some 13,600 professionals. Those estimates do not capture changes in care delivery patterns or uneven regional distributions in the supply of addiction counselors that may be present.

The substance abuse counseling program at UCC is characterized by its comprehensive approach, which addresses all types of substances involved in use disorders, including licit and illicit substances, alcohol and prescription medications.

“At UCC we strive to develop competent professionals to serve individuals, families and communities affected by substance abuse,” Crespo said. “Our study offering is one that emphasizes the importance of prevention and community education.”

The program has two educational offerings. One confers a post-baccalaureate certificate that offers the tools to provide substance abuse counseling services. The second is the master of health sciences in substance abuse, which allows counselors to provide services, as well as supervise, plan, administer and evaluate programs for prevention and treatment, both in public agencies and in private organizations.

Crespo stressed that “the UCC has funds to provide scholarships and aid to professionals who are interested in enrolling.”

Those interested in the program must have a bachelor’s degree in a health-related field. The deadline to apply for admission is May 31, 2024. More information is available by writing to or or call 787-798-3001 ext. 2706 and 2708.

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