UA Establishes Apprenticeship for Opioid Addiction Support Specialists

UA Establishes Apprenticeship for Opioid Addiction Support Specialists

Dr. Mercy Mumba

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – The University of Alabama is launching an apprenticeship program to train individuals in behavioral health and substance abuse recovery.

Dr. Mercy Mumba, associate professor at the Capstone College of Nursing, and her team have successfully established UA as a sponsor for a Behavioral Health Paraprofessional Registered Apprenticeship Program through the Alabama Office of Apprenticeship. UA is the first nationally registered Certified Recovery Support Specialist apprenticeship program in the state.

“The exceptional work of our faculty and staff in establishing this apprenticeship program fills a need in our state’s health care workforce and reinforces the University’s flagship role of supporting the needs of our state and its citizens,” said Dr. Russell J. Mumper, UA vice president for research and economic development.

The project to create and launch a CRSS apprenticeship program was funded by a four-year, $2.1 million grant from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration to Mumba’s team in 2020. The goals of the project are to enhance the quality of training for behavioral health-related paraprofessionals; increase the number of behavioral health-related paraprofessionals in the state; lessen the impact of substance use disorders on the individual and families; and improve the network of organizations that provide substance use services to individuals and families.

“Our team is honored to be contributing to efforts targeted at combating the opioid and substance use epidemics by increasing the number of behavioral health paraprofessionals, thereby addressing mental health provider shortages in our state,” Mumba said. “We are also excited to be responsive to Gov. Ivey’s ready workforce initiatives by preparing highly skilled CRSS who are able to work in high-need, high-demand areas of our state.”

Registered apprenticeships are a nationally recognized and proven approach for preparing workers for jobs while meeting the needs of businesses for a highly skilled workforce. The Alabama Office of Apprenticeship supports the creation of this meaningful training and employment opportunity.

“The scourge of opioid addiction has impacted Alabama as it has the entire country. We are excited to partner with The University of Alabama in the development of this innovative program to help,” said Josh Laney, director of the Alabama Office of Apprenticeship. “This program addresses a need identified by Gov. Ivey’s Opioid Overdose and Addiction Council to provide evidence-based practices for opioid treatment and recovery support.”

The creation of a registered apprenticeship for CRSS will enable individuals to continue with their recovery journey while receiving instruction from UA, and on-the-job learning with collaborating employers.

Pathway Healthcare, an outpatient addiction, psychiatric and mental healthcare treatment center with six locations in Alabama, will be the first employer in UA’s consortium of employers that will launch the apprenticeship in January 2022.

This project is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as part of a financial assistance award totaling $2,101,174 with 100% funded by the agencies with no money coming from non-government sources. The contents are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by HRSA/HHS, or the U.S. Government. For more information, please visit the HRSA website.


Adam Jones, UA communications, 205-348-4328,


Rosemary Russell, nursing communications,