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PHOTO/ DAVE SCHERBENCO LCCC student and chapter lead for Young People in Recovery Northeast Pa John Fabieski addresses Human Services Diploma Specializing in Addiction Recovery at LCCC informational program Monday.

Luzerne County Community College will provide a new diploma for students recovering from drug and alcohol addiction, and it will be the first credit program in Pennsylvania for students pursuing the Certified Recovery Specialist credential.

Heather Jones, human services instructor/coordinator at the college, said she’s been working to launch the program for two years. It starts this fall with room for up to 50 students, she said.

“The intention is to provide a pathway for those in recovery to come back,” Jones said Monday during an announcement with state and college officials.

The program involves six courses that total 16 credits. It prepares students for work in the drug and alcohol field specializing in peer support recovery.

But another goal of the program is to entice students in recovery to continue their education beyond getting the addiction recovery diploma to get a more advanced degree, said William Stauffer, executive director of the Pennsylvania Recovery Organizations Alliance.

The community college program will provide the knowledge and skills needed to sit for the PA Certification Board examination to become professionally credentialled as a recovery specialist.

John Fabiseski, a community college student who has been in recovery since 2014, thanked the college “for taking the lead and developing” the new program. Fabiseski, 47, lives in Tunkhannock and works as a certified recovery specialist for the Trehab Community Action Agency in Montrose.

“My wife has her husband back,” Fabiseski said. “I’m employable today.”

Fabiseski and his wife have four children and three grandchildren. He is taking community college courses to get an associate’s degree in human services and wants to eventually get a master’s degree in addiction policy.

Luzerne County Community College President Thomas P. Leary said the college “is joining the fight” to promote drug and alcohol treatment, noting the national crisis involving drug overdose deaths. Pennsylvania has the fourth most number of overdose deaths in the nation, and there were 10 overdose deaths in Wilkes-Barre this past weekend, Leary said.

A total of 151 people died from drug overdoses in Luzerne County in 2017. That annual toll represents a 170 percent increase over 2010.