The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has awarded a grant expected to total $935,393 over three years to Shenandoah University.
The university’s Bernard J. Dunn School of Pharmacy will lead an effort to provide interprofessional education aimed at preparing future health care providers to identify patients’ behavioral health issues related to substance abuse and to effectively intervene and refer patients for treatment when appropriate.
Students from all of Shenandoah University’s graduate-level health professions — with emphasis on pharmacy, nursing and physician assistant studies students — will learn to apply Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral for Treatment (SBIRT) principles. Shenandoah will also partner with the Virginia Department of Health to identify and address related training needs for health care providers in the Lord Fairfax Health District.
“I think this is a wonderful opportunity for Shenandoah to use this grant not only to help the community address a major public health problem, but to allow our health professions programs to take our interprofessional education efforts to the next level,” said Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Professor of Pharmacy Practice Penny Shelton, Pharm.D., who will direct the project.
“Interprofessional education is one of our highest priorities at Shenandoah University,” said Timothy Ford, Ph.D., dean of the university’s School of Health Professions. “This grant gives us the ability to grow our interprofessional education initiatives and strengthen the bonds that are already forming among our cutting edge health care programs.”
Educational program accreditors and health care experts are increasingly calling on institutions to prepare health professionals to learn to work collaboratively in teams with other disciplines to assure high quality care for patients.
In an October 2014 report to Congress, the Advisory Committee on Interdisciplinary, Community-Based Linkages stated, “Health professions education reform is critical to preparing the workforce to meet the health needs of populations…. To prepare future healthcare professionals to address these needs, their education must include high quality clinical experiences in community practices that utilize an interprofessional approach when providing health care services.”
“Dynamic partnerships involving universities, community practices, and other institutions are needed to provide students with innovative learning experiences in preparation for practice in the healthcare system of the future,” the report continued. Shenandoah’s new grant-funded project will be one of those dynamic partnerships.
In offering his support for the project, Health Director for the Lord Fairfax Health District Charles Devine, M.D., said, “The Lord Fairfax Health District is experiencing a substantial substance abuse problem resulting in increased numbers of deaths attributable to opiate overdose…. Too few professionals are prepared to provide their clients or patients who may be substance users with screening, brief intervention, and referral to treatment.”
In partnership with Cyril Barch, M.D., a board-certified geriatrician with Selma Medical Associates, a multi-specialty practice located in Winchester, Virginia, the grant project will also address the rising problem of substance use disorders among older adults, previously referred to by SAMHSA as a “silent epidemic.”
“I am excited to partner with the health professions programs at Shenandoah University in helping them to design and implement a ‘true’ interprofessional clinical experience in geriatrics,” said Dr. Barch.
The grant will lead to the development of an interprofessional clinical learning experience designed to train health professions students in a holistic approach to patient assessment, which includes screening for substance use disorders.