Through Indiana University’s Responding to Addictions Crisis Grand Challenge initiative, faculty throughout the university are working to ensure Indiana’s workforce is equipped to address the addictions crisis by helping to educate professionals throughout the state and by training the next generation of healthcare workers.
"As an institution of higher learning, our mission is education, whether it is in the classroom, online or in the community," said Robin Newhouse, dean of the School of Nursing, distinguished professor and leader of the initiative. "When creating the Responding to the Addictions Grand Challenge, educating and training on together with our community partners was a central goal of our efforts alongside and in synergy with educating future generations."
The initiative began two years ago and aimed to reduce the number of addicted Hoosiers; reduce deaths from drug overdoses and reduce the number of babies born with prenatal exposure to harmful substances.
As the nation's largest and most comprehensive state-based response to the opioid addiction crisis, the initiative also includes a strong educational component with projects that already have trained more than 200 professionals and students throughout the state.
Ellen Vaughan, associate professor at the IU School of Education, is at the forefront of that mission with a project aimed at educating students entering the healthcare profession and mental health service providers specializing in addictions who are looking to expand their education.
Although the need for students entering the healthcare profession to be able to recognize and respond to addiction is greater than ever, addiction has not been designated as an essential topic of coursework or training for those students.
Through her project, Vaughan has created a master's track through the IU School of Education in Bloomington as well as joined other IU campuses in an online certificate in addictions counseling.
"The evidence-based curriculum and practical training spans prevalence, prevention, assessment and treatment of substance use disorders," Vaughan said. "We hope that expanded training opportunities in mental health and addictions counseling will address unmet need that is far too common in our state."
In addition to training students, Grand Challenges projects such as Joan Duwve's are helping providers in underresourced areas build greater capacity to treat addiction-related health issues.
Using the ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes) Center program, a teleconferencing model that connects local primary-care teams with interdisciplinary specialist teams to improve treatment for complex and chronic health conditions, participants throughout the state have clocked more than 2,000 hours of continuing education, covering more than 130 patient cases.
Duwve, associate professor and associate dean of public health practice at Fairbanks School of Public Health at IUPUI, and her team have launched/been funded to launch four addictions-related ECHO groups around Hepatitis C, HIV, LGBTQ and Peer Education Program (In Prisons) with plans to launch additional groups on pain management and Communities Advancing Recovery Efforts. The IU School of Medicine also has an ECHO group on opioids. Duwve's group has additional ECHOs on Cancer Prevention and Survivorship Care and is working with partners on additional ECHOs including on Opioid Use Disorder Comorbidities.
"Through ECHO, we have been able to connect an interdisciplinary group of professionals including social workers, pharmacists, community advocates, psychologists, therapists, pediatricians, primary care providers and medical residents," Duwve said. "This program allows everyone the opportunity to come together with their counterparts, sharing their expertise and learning from others."
Matt Aalsma, associate professor of pediatrics and psychology, is also working to provide further education for professionals by training health practitioners working in the juvenile justice system. Although a number of practices have been shown to be effective in helping teens avoid or overcome substance use disorders, such programs have rarely been provided to justice-involved youth, and these youth are less likely than other teens to access any type of substance use services.
Aalsma and his team are bringing together screening for drug use with training for case managers and counselors to identify justice-involved youth at risk of substance use disorder and help them access appropriate care. So far, Aalsma and his team have trained dozens of mental health practitioners on evidence-based substance use treatment in Tippecanoe and Wayne Counties. With funding from a new grant, Aalsma plans to train dozens more across eight counties.
"Few counties have universal substance use screening or evidence-based substance use treatment," Aalsma said. "Our project aims to improve the substance use treatment outcomes for some of the state’s most vulnerable youth."