WEST LAFAYETTE — The widespread opioid addiction is creating a pressing need for more treatment programs and more professionals to provide services.

Purdue University’s Department of Human Development and Family Studies and Ivy Tech Community College’s Human Services program have created an optional addiction studies concentration to prepare students who major in human services to become licensed addiction counselors.

“As the opioid crisis has shown us, the number of people who need addictions or substance abuse services continues to grow,” said Tom Gilliom, CEO of Valley Oaks Health, an Indiana-based community health center. “However, data shows that there are not nearly enough licensed addictions counselors in the state of Indiana to provide the services that are needed. This unique program will produce graduates to assist in filling this significant void.”

The program is the first of its kind at a public institution in Indiana to meet the requirements of the state’s bachelor’s-level, pre-supervision license in the field of addiction counseling (LACA). Students who complete Purdue’s human services major with the addiction studies concentration will have the educational qualifications needed to meet the LACA licensing requirements.

“We wanted to develop this program because we were aware of the serious shortages in the addiction-related workforce,” said Jennifer Dobbs-Oates, a clinical associate professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies, located within the College of Health and Human Sciences. “The state of Indiana has a bachelor-level license in addiction counseling, but just because the license exists doesn’t mean that there are educational programs that meet all those license requirements. We set out to create a program that would graduate students who were qualified for licensure and who could immediately contribute to solving the addiction crisis facing our state and our nation.”

The seven-course concentration is an addition to the existing human services major at Purdue. Only students enrolled in the major can add the addiction concentration.

Students will enroll in five of the concentration’s courses through Ivy Tech. The courses are offered online in eight-week terms. Courses for the concentration are available throughout the fall, spring and summer terms. Students who complete the program will earn an Addiction Studies Certificate from Ivy Tech, in addition to a bachelor’s degree from Purdue.

“The partnership with Ivy Tech Community College is key because they already have the addiction-specific expertise that is needed,” Dobbs-Oates said. “Through this partnership, we take our existing human services program, which provides a really rich general preparation in social services provision plus an in-depth capstone internship, and we pair it with some addiction-specific coursework from Ivy Tech.”

Although two institutions are involved, the entire program is contained within a typical, 120-credit-hour degree. The program is covered by a consortium agreement, allowing for the Ivy Tech courses to be included in Purdue students’ financial aid eligibility.

Lynn Saylor

There is a desperate need for professionals to counsel those struggling with substance misuse. People struggling with Substance Use disorder or Mental health issues often wait thirty to ninety days to begin professional services. This certification program would allow for more bachelor’s degree level Human Services graduates to begin filling this gap providing additional services to people in need. Only about ten percent of those involved in substance misuse are able to get into treatment. There are a variety of reasons for this, but the lack of clinicians is a huge barrier.

This innovative program is another step in providing more addiction counselors. I am grateful for the partnership between Purdue and Ivy Tech to meet the increasing need.

Indiana as a state, is realizing the importance of a variety of levels of support for people involved in substance misuse. Providing the coursework necessary to meet Licensed Addiction Counselor certification requirements will benefit our state and community.

Area agencies such as NAMI and MHA have created innovative ways to meet this need as well. NAMI offers facilitator training for Peer to Peer Mental Health support groups. (Contact Sheri Moore (765-423-6939, smoore@nami-wci.org) Mental Health America MHA) offers the Let’s Talk Program to support those who have scheduled mental health/substance use clinical appointments as they wait. (Contact Erin Perdue 765-742-1800, epurdue@mhawv.org)

Phoenix Recovery Solutions has trained more than thirty individuals to serve as Certified Community Health Workers or Certified Recovery Support Workers in the past year. (JasonPadgett 765-414-2169 Padgett@phoenixparamedics.com)

All these agencies are working creatively meet the increasing need of those with substance use and mental health issues.

Lynn Saylor is an AmeriCorps member serving in the United Against Opioid Abuse Initiative through the White County United Way. She can be contacted at opioidinformation@gmail.com.

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