Touro College and its Graduate School of Social Work have secured two grants totaling $1.36 million to train students, faculty and staff in fighting the nation’s opioid crisis.
The larger of the two awards, totaling $1.3 million from the United States Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration, is part of the department’s new three-year “Federal Opioid Workforce Expansion Program” and is shared with Touro’s School of Health Sciences’ Clinical Mental Health Counseling Program.
The second award of $60,000 is for a new 20-month program titled “Social Workers on the Front Line of the Opioid Epidemic Learning Collaborative,” conducted by the National Council for Behavioral Health, a not-for-profit group of over 3,000 member organizations that help millions with mental illness and addictions. The Collaborative will provide stipends and training to prepare students to lead the charge against the opioid and drug epidemic. The National Council’s partners are the Council on Social Work Education, the national accreditor for social work schools, and the New York Community Trust, a private foundation.
Training of interprofessional teams
“We are privileged to be chosen for these grants,” said Touro College and University System President Dr. Alan Kadish, who said most of the funding seeks to train interprofessional teams in prevention, treatment and recovery related to opioids and other substances. “That’s part of the unique strength of Touro. As one of the largest health educators in the nation, we will teach our students to tackle this problem in teams—with social workers and clinical mental health counselors working alongside medical doctors, pharmacists and nurses.”
Touro is one of the select schools in the U.S. and in New York State to participate in the $57.4 million HRSA grant. Eligible students chosen for the program will take specialized courses and work with medically underserved populations in communities throughout NYC at field placements located in the areas hardest hit by the opioid crisis. Under the program, each year 24 advanced standing MSW students from the GSSW and three CMHD students from the SHS will receive one-time student stipends of $10,000 each.
The GSSW is one of ten social work schools in the U.S. chosen to participate in the Learning Collaborative, which will provide up to eight students a year with $6,000 stipends to support them while doing fieldwork in opioid and substance abuse.
“There hasn’t been the foundation to adequately treat this disease,” said GSSW Founding Dean Dr. Steven Huberman, who spearheaded both initiatives. “We will be combining an innovative curriculum with field placements in some of the most severely affected communities to address this tragedy.”
According to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, opioids are the main driver of drug overdose deaths in the U.S., which totaled 70,236 in 2017. Of those, 47,600—or 67.8 percent of the total—involved opioids. New York and New Jersey are cited as among the states with statistically significant increases in drug overdose death rates from 2016 to 2017. According to Spectrum News NY1, more than 6,800 deaths have occurred across New York City’s five boroughs from drug overdoses since 2010.
Working throughout the
Touro students are expected to be working throughout the boroughs, serving high-need, high-demand parts of the city where the numbers of accidental drug overdose deaths, including those from opioids, are higher than the national average, such as in Hunts Point, Mott Haven, High Bridge and Morrisania in the Bronx. Students are also expected to be working on Manhattan’s West Side and in Harlem, as well as in Brooklyn and Queens.
“Touro’s CMHC program is honored to partner with the GSSW,” said Dr. Faye Fried-Walkenfeld, chair of the SHS Department of Behavioral Sciences. “This important initiative from HRSA fits well with the training our students undergo to prepare them for the CASAC –T (Credential Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Counseling–Trainee) certification. We are excited that our students will get support as they develop the skills necessary to be a part of the opioid crisis solution.”
Stipends are available to master’s students entering their advanced year of field placement who are within 6-12 months of graduation, or applicants with bachelor’s degrees in social work admitted to the MSW program with advanced standing. Applicants interested in the HRSA program should contact Project Director Cynthia R. Lewis, LMSW at Cynthia.firstname.lastname@example.org or CMHC Field Services Coordinator Menachem Kiwak, MS, CASAC-T at Menachem.email@example.com. Applicants interested in the Learning Collaborative should contact Ms. Lewis at the GSSW.