Indiana, IUPUI Addressing Opioid Epidemic

Indianapolis is set to gain new specialists in treating drug addiction.

Indiana has a serious opioid problem and it’s only getting worse. IUPUI has partnered with state health leaders to address this crisis.  

Marion County has the highest death by drug overdose rate than any state in the nation with 37.4 deaths per 100,000 people. Of those overdoses, 81% of them were caused by opioids. Between 2011-2017, there was a 123% increase in overdose deaths by residents of Marion County and a 75% increase in Indiana as a whole. In 2017, the state of Indiana reached an all-time high with more than 1,700 Hoosiers dying from drug overdose.

These numbers, obtained from a study conducted by the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation, have state leaders attention. That is why the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation gave out a $376,000 grant to create The Community Behavioral Health Academy. A program launched by the partnership of Community Behavioral Health at Community Health Network, the Indiana University School of Social Work at IUPUI, the University of Indianapolis and Ascend Indiana to address the opioid epidemic.

The program, designed to address the lack of trained behavioral health professionals, will annually yield 15-30 dually licensed clinical social workers and addiction counselors. This comes after Indiana fell 7,000 workers short of meeting the need.

Factors that have contributed to the need of trained behavioral health professionals includes low pay and stressful working conditions. This program is set to address these issues by, per the grantee’s website, “offering students financial incentives, licensure support and employment pathways following graduation.”

Photo courtesy of the Fairbanks Institute.

To further address the education and addition of more behavioral health professionals, participants in the Academy will complete specialized curriculum and an internship over the course of two semesters. Graduates will also receive financial benefits and educational opportunities which includes priority in job interviews at Community Health Network upon graduating.

“The Community Behavioral Health Academy is one step in what should be a comprehensive approach to meeting the significant need for treatment among those suffering from substance use disorder and mental illness in Indiana,” said Claire Fiddian-Green, president and CEO of the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation. “To help save lives and stem the growing toll of the opioid epidemic, making other substantive changes and replicating this model around the state will be key.”

Recruitment for the program began in February 2019 at IUPUI and UIndy, with coursework beginning in the Fall 2019 semester. Per the grants webpage, eligible students include current students seeking their Master of Social Work (MSW) degree and in their first year of coursework. Undergraduates and current social workers with a bachelor’s degree in social work should apply to one of the participating MSW programs to be considered for the Academy.

This is not all that Indiana is doing to combat the opioid problem. In April of 2018 Gov. Eric Holcomb signed three bills to help address the problem. House Bill 1007 allowed for funding of nine new opioid addictions centers, increasing Indiana’s total of these facilities to 27. Senate Bill 221 requests doctors use the INSPECT program, which is statewide prescription tracking system, when prescribing opioids. Senate Bill 139 requires coroners to conduct a thorough investigation to suspected drug overdose victims.  

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