FARMINGTON — The University of Maine Augusta and The University of Maine Farmington are collaborating on a project that is aimed at enhancing their respective mental health and human services programs as well as removing potential barriers for students interested in the field.

The collaboration is being funded by a $285,000 grant from the University of Maine System Talent, Research & Innovation for Maine – Small Campus Initiative. The funds were allocated to UMS from the Maine Jobs and Recovery Plan, a plan devised by Governor Janet Mills and approved by the Legislature to utilize Maine’s share of the federal pandemic relief funds provided by Congress.

The collaboration is spearheaded by Dr. Wendy St. Pierre, Assistant Professor of MHHS at UMA. Dr. Karen Barrett, Professor of Rehabilitation Services, and Dr. Nicole Achey, Assistant Professor of Rehabilitation Services, are St. Pierre’s collaborators on the UMF campus. The project aims to target two critical workforce areas by helping students in courses that lead to licensure to become a substance use disorders counselor in Maine and courses to become an employment specialist.

UMA and UMF both offer the Substance Abuse Rehabilitation Technician [SART] certificate program, which is designed to provide students with the necessary coursework to meet the education requirements for entry-level licensure in substance use disorder treatment in Maine. Ten courses that are offered entirely online, the SART certificate program prepares students to become Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselors [CADCs].

UMF’s Employment Specialist [ES] certification will also benefit from the grant. The certificate, which is earned by completing two online courses prepares graduates to work closely with people with disabilities, and other limiting conditions, to help them find and maintain employment.

The way in which this grant will help students includes free student tuition for specific classes at UMA and UMF, a 50% tuition waiver for new and current students enrolled in SART classes, and reimbursing students if they pursue their professional license as a substance use disorders counselor and pass the national exam.


St. Pierre, a graduate of UMF, began pursuing the grant in 2022 at the behest of UMA. Stipulations for the grant included collaboration with other campuses in the UMaine system and a focus on areas affected heavily by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Increasing the number of substance use counselors across the state of Maine was definitely something we wanted to be able to do,” she told The Franklin Journal. “The other piece to that is Farmington was developing their Employment Specialist pathway, which works with people with disabilities, both visible disabilities as well as what we call invisible disabilities.”

Dr. Jenifer Cushman, President of UMA, expressed her enthusiasm for the collaboration, stating, “This partnership will strengthen our commitment to producing highly skilled professionals in mental health and human services. By working together with UMF, we can provide our students with an even more exceptional education and empower them to make a meaningful impact in their communities.”

When formulating the grant application, St. Pierre saw the greatest workforce need was substance use disorders counselors across the state of Maine. St. Pierre’s collaborator Barrett echoed this sentiment, remarking that she receives calls from agencies seeking potential applicants regularly. “We got calls almost on a daily basis,” she said. “‘Don’t you have any interns? Don’t you have any graduates?'”

“If we were going to find ways to impact [the rise in substance use disorders in Maine],” St. Pierre stated, “increasing the amount of people who have the training and education to support that work is one of the ways that we felt we could have a direct impact and use these funds.”

One student in the program, Jeff Lindsey of Bangor, opened up about his interest in the program. “I’m 20 years clean from narcotics and five years clean from alcohol,” he shared with The Franklin Journal in a phone interview. “So for me, this program is coming full circle in life, going from active use to now being able to support those who are in need.”


Before getting clean, Lindsey stated that he was deep into drugs and narcotics in terms of use and sale. “I was basically one of the largest drug dealers in the Bangor area for a long time.”

Lindsey had started to look for ways out of drugs when his son was born and he recalls the last day he had done narcotics. Lindsey shared with The Franklin Journal a story about a friend of his that stepped into his operations when he was transitioning out of selling narcotics and a tattoo that reminds him of the last day.

“He ended up dying in the jail cell in Ellsworth,” Lindsey told of his friend, “and he got brought back to life and brought up to here in Bangor, and I have a tattoo on my arm that reminds me of that day. You know, it’s one of those things, sometimes memories are foggy. So the tattoo of 6/23/2003 is the last day that I used narcotics, because I saw him in ICU.”

“That was the eye opening moment for me,” he added.

Lindsey credits his son, two daughters and his wife for their support as he pursues the SART program. He also stresses the need for more people in this field and many others like it. “The only thing that I think needs to be said is that even if you think you can’t do something, whether or not it’s financially or just time wise, there’s so many programs out there.”

To be eligible for the grant, prospective students must apply for admission, and there is no cost to apply. Once accepted into the program, students can apply online for grant funding, which covers up to 50% of the tuition for specific courses identified in the grant.

For more information on the program, contact UMA or UMF admissions office, or contact St. Pierre at

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