A public health crisis
Training the next generation of substance use and mental health experts
Facilities that offer medication-assisted treatment (MAT) are also hard to come by. These facilities substitute a safer substance, like methadone or buprenorphine, for opioids, which helps ease the pains of withdrawal from hard-core narcotics or offers a long-term, safer substitute from opioids. The ultimate goal is to safely wean patients off the opioid-substitute as well.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration supports MAT, along with counseling and behavioral therapies, but many insurers, including Medicaid, aren’t keen to cover it. Plus, providers subject themselves to intense scrutiny by the Drug Enforcement Agency.
“It’s a highly regulated process to distribute medication,” Mowbray said. “And that creates a disincentive to provide it.”
Along with College of Education professor Bernadette Heckman, Mowbray secured a $1.4 million grant from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration to train about 100 graduate students to help address the mental and behavioral health services shortage.
The graduate students will serve in treatment facilities across District 10. The grant will also enable the students to receive advanced training in everything from screening for substance use problems to medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction.
“We can teach students all they want in the classroom,” Mowbray said, “But that direct experience, that experiential learning, is critical.”