New initiative looks to address Indiana’s social worker shortage

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Indiana is facing a massive shortage of licensed, trained behavioral health specialists who can provide help to those dealing with substance addiction. But now, a new initiative is looking to change that.

A partnership between Community Health Network, Ascend Indiana, IUPUI and the University of Indianapolis is launching a program that will train social workers to provide treatment substance abuse treatment in Central Indiana.

“The program really is designed to create that specialization around addictions,” said Dean of the College of Applied Behavioral Sciences at UIndy Anita Thomas.

Currently, Indiana has one of the most significant needs of licensed behavioral professionals, falling more than 6,000 workers short.

The program is expected to yield roughly 40 social workers a year.

“Addiction is a brain disease, and we have to change the way a person thinks. Everything they do, everything they think is usually affected by their addiction and their recovery efforts. So, it takes a long time to retrain the brain to make decisions that are supportive of recovery instead of supportive of their old lifestyle which was their use,” said Clinical Director of Fairbanks Robin Parsons.

The initiative is funded by a grant from the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation. Program participants will undergo a year-long specialized clinical internship, and include hands-on experience, intense supervision from providers at Community Health Network, and specialty courses on substance addiction. Graduates will receive financial incentives and priority work opportunities with Community Health Network.

“I think we’re going to train really great clinicians and make a dent in the opioid crisis,” Thomas said.

The programs are set to launch in the fall. To be eligible you must be a student pursuing a Master’s of social work degree. Undergraduates pursuing a Bachelor’s of social work degree and those who already hold a Bachelor’s of social work degree will have to apply to a master’s program to be considered eligible. For more information you can contact IUPUI’s and UIndy’s office of admissions.

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