Published September 12, 2019
The UB School of Nursing has received a $1.35 million grant to increase the number of behavioral health professionals treating opioid and other substance use disorders in Western New York.
Through the three-year grant — which is provided by the United States Health Resources and Services Administration — UB will partner with nine local primary and behavioral health care sites to launch the Opioid Workforce Expansion Program (OWEP), an interdisciplinary, state-of-the-art addictions training program.
The program will train more than 50 UB students pursuing graduate degrees and certificates in mental health counselling, rehabilitation counseling, psychology, social work and psychiatric mental health nursing.
“We are extremely excited about this funding, allowing us to partner with nine integrated primary care and behavioral health sites and promote student placement in high-need and high-demand areas throughout Erie and Niagara counties,” said Yu-Ping Chang, principal investigator on the grant, associate dean for research and scholarship, and Patricia H. and Richard E. Garman Endowed Professor in the School of Nursing.
“This grant fosters academic and practice partnerships with experts in addictions care in an effort to create a cohesive and interdisciplinary addiction training program. Aside from the benefit to our students, our clinical partners will also have access to enhanced addictions offerings and opportunities to consult with experts either in-person or using telehealth technology,” said Chang, who is also a faculty member in the UB Clinical and Research Institute on Addictions (CRIA).
More Americans die each year from drug overdoses than they do in motor vehicle crashes, and the majority of those overdoses involve prescription medications. According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, in 2012, nearly 259 million opioid pain medication prescriptions were written, enough for every adult in the U.S. to have a bottle of pills.
For vulnerable communities in Western New York, access to treatment remains a barrier to addictions care, says Chang. Opioid death rates in the Erie and Niagara counties are among the highest in the state, she says.
By leveraging relationships with community partners, OWEP aims to ultimately place behavioral health professionals at care sites in these communities.
With a focus on experiential learning, the program will increase the number and diversity of graduates entering addictions care to provide prevention, treatment and recovery services. OWEP will also serve as a resource for information for UB faculty and community partners.