Dean Allan Cole announced that René Gaitan, LCSW-S, clinical assistant professor, will oversee the inaugural Communities and Relatives Empowered for Support with Substance Misuse (CARES) Program, effective in Summer 2024. His title will include Faculty Fellow and he will begin preparation for this role this month.

The CARES program will be based at Cornerstone Church in Austin and will provide education and supportive counseling to individuals and families affected by substance misuse. This program is made possible through the generosity of donors, including those associated with two non-profits: Brittani’s Hope and The Agape Fund. René will provide administrative oversight and supervise social work students completing practicum requirements through participation in the CARES program.

“Faith-based communities and the social work profession have long been key parts of both my personal and professional life. I’m very grateful and honored to have the opportunity to be a part of the CARES program and help bring together the best of both communities,” said Gaitan. “I’m excited to be working with Pastor Dan Underhill and our Steve Hicks School as we look forward to supporting positive healing change for families across our communities seeking hope in the area of substance abuse.”

A seasoned social worker and social work educator, René has served as a practicum instructor at SHS since 2016, a clinical assistant professor since 2019, and most recently, a faculty associate to oversee social work student interns in the clinics at the University of Texas School of Law.

René has also worked with social service agencies, local government, for-profit, and non-governmental organizations in California and Texas, and has facilitated trainings and workshops on topics such as critical incident debrief, suicide postvention, safety and child abuse prevention, positive parenting, and substance misuse.

The CARES program will support healing and positive change for those affected by substance misuse while also providing SHS students the opportunity to enhance their knowledge, understanding, and skills as they relate to social work and addictions.

“I look forward to René leading this new program, which holds great promise for supporting those living with the challenges presented by substance misuse, while also helping individuals, families, and communities flourish,” said Dean Cole.