Now is the Time: NAADAC Minority Fellowship Program for Addictions Counselors

March 10, 2016

Maureen Fitzgerald
Communications Coordinator, ATTC Network Coordinating Office
Editor, NIATx 

The NAADAC Minority Fellowship Program for Addiction Counselors (NMFP-AC), funded by SAMHSA, awards tuition stipends of up to $20,000 to qualified students who are eligible for graduation from an accredited Master’s program in addiction/substance use disorders counseling and are committed to working with minority or transition age clients (ages 18-25).

The goal of the fellowship is to build the addiction treatment workforce that treats underserved communities and populations, including minority populations, LGBT populations, and transition-age youth.

The program launched in 2014, selecting 13 fellows for the first cohort. Two of those fellows interviewed recently, Tanya Richem and Nil Shores, describe receiving the award as “life-changing.” 

Helping her hometown: Tanya Richem  

Tanya Richem
A third-generation resident of Choteau, Montana (population 1300), Tanya knew that she wanted to help the underserved in her community after she completed an undergraduate degree in education in 1998. She worked in legal services and also taught at a rural school in one of Montana’s Hutterite colonies for several years. In 2013, she returned to graduate school to pursue a master’s degree in psychology, specializing in substance use disorders.

Alcohol abuse is the primary cause of substance use disorders in Tanya’s community, and it has affected many in her own family—including her husband, who is now in recovery. In fact, he’s now attending Montana State University to become a licensed addiction counselor.

Tanya learned about the NMFP-AC program through an announcement from NAADAC. At the time, a financial crisis was about to derail her graduate studies.

“It seemed like it was written just for someone like me, and it came along at a time when I didn’t know how I was going to finance my studies.”

As reported recently in the Choteau Acantha, a weekly newspaper, Tanya’s fellowship will increase the availability of counseling to youth ages 16-25 in north-central Montana.

Tanya is now completing her graduate degree through Prescott College. She’s also working full-time as a clinical intern and combining her addiction counseling studies with a certificate in expressive arts therapy. She’s creating a psychoeducational art therapy project aimed to start a dialogue in her community about how to help people re-enter their communities after incarceration.  

People undergo treatment in the criminal justice system, but they recover in their communities,” says Tanya. “Sometimes there isn’t a lot available to help them make that transition.”

Tanya is committed to making an impact in her community. “My goal is to help families build the skills they need to support their loved ones who suffer from a substance use disorder.” 

Crossing cultures: Nil Shores

NAADAC Director Cynthia
Moreno-Tuohy (L) with Nil Shores
NMFP-AC Fellow Nil (Eronilde) Shores grew up in a small village in the state of Maranhãin northern Brazil. Nil's hometown, Barracão de Madeira, is so small, says Nil, that it doesn’t even appear on the map. One of seven children, Nil was the first in her family to complete high school, and she credits her father for encouraging her to continue her education. A passion for learning English brought her to the United States in 2007. While working and attending college in Delaware, Nil met and later married an American soldier who had been deployed in Iraq. After a fourth deployment, he returned home with post-traumatic stress disorder and a traumatic brain injury. Opiates prescribed for his chronic pain led to a heroin addiction and tragically, death by overdose.

Her husband’s struggles motivated Nil to pursue a graduate degree in mental health counseling with an emphasis on trauma and addiction. She learned about the NMFP-AC fellowship through her advisor at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs. While completing her studies, Nil has also been working full time as a counselor in child protective services at Savio House, a local social services agency. Nil's background and language skills (she's fluent in Spanish and Portuguese, as well as English) play an important part in her work, as many of her clients speak only Spanish, or have limited English language skills.

One requirement of the NMFP-AC fellowship is to complete six educational webinars available through the NAADAC Institute Webinar Series. Nil cites the webinar “Cultural Humility and Counseling Hispanic and Latino Populations” as being particularly valuable to her work.

“All of the webinars have increased my knowledge about cross-cultural issues and cultural sensitivity,” says Nil. "As a multicultural individual, I find it extremely rewarding to be able to truly understand the various challenges my clients face in their acculturation process. I am reminded in almost every session with my Hispanic clients of the importance that cultural sensitivity plays in the process of helping them navigate a world outside of their own." 

Nil encourages any student in a master’s program in addiction studies to consider applying for the NMFP-AC fellowship. “It is a great opportunity to expand your knowledge of how to best serve minorities and underserved populations.”

The application period for the second cohort for the NMFP-AC program ends on March 15, 2016.  For more information, visit

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