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Release: Immediate

UI substance abuse and counseling program receives $1.5 million award for further study

IOWA CITY, Iowa ­ A recent $1.5 million grant will help a team of University of Iowa researchers continue to design a curriculum that will help healthcare professionals and counselors better recognize and treat persons with substance abuse problems.

Investigators with The Prairielands Addiction Technology and Transfer Center, a 25-year-old substance abuse treatment program at the UI, will receive $500,000 annually for the next three years from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration. The five-person, Prairielands ATTC team will design a curriculum that will be used by healthcare workers and allied health professionals in four Midwest states.

Anne Helene Skinstad, an assistant professor in the division of counseling, rehabilitation and student development program at the UI College of Education, is an internationally known expert on substance abuse and education. She will serve as principal investigator of the Prairielands ATTC team.

"We feel when someone has a substance abuse problem and goes for treatment, the abuse has already developed into a chronic problem. We want to prepare health care workers to detect the abuse problems early to prevent it from developing into a chronic problem," Skinstad says.

Changes in the health care industry created the need for the program and by the recognition that drug and alcohol abuse are often associated with other physical and mental disorders.

Insurance providers are less inclined to send clients to counselors who specialize in treating addiction in the current, more competitive environment of managed care, Skinstad says. Providers would rather send their clients to medical and mental health providers who can treat a wide range of illnesses. That means future health care workers will need to recognize signs of addiction earlier and know how to treat it better, Skinstad says.

The Prairielands ATTC will create online-based instruction that will offer different ways of teaching substance abuse, assessment counseling and prevention for Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota, as well as Iowa.

Skinstad says the four states are being studied because they are predominately rural and because of their population densities. The states also share another commonality: Native American Indians make up a significant portion of the population.

"North Dakota has done a lot of things to train Native American Indians in professional fields such as medicine, psychology and nursing." A number of the trained professionals are employed at reservations, Skinstad says.

"Our hope is to educate them so that when they return to the reservations where they teach, they can educate other Native Americans on the effects of substance abuse and addiction," Skinstad says.

In Iowa, two Centers for Excellence will be developed to help health care workers and counselors recognize abuses by psychiatric patients and in gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, and transgender persons. Two additional centers will be developed in North Dakota to recognize similar abuses by Native Americans and in women.

Skinstad will lead program investigators Jack Barnette, associate professor, consultation and preventive medicine at UI hospitals; Peter E. Nathan, psychology professor; Mickey Eliason, College of Nursing associate professor; and Arthur Schut, of the Mideastern Council on Chemical Dependency and an adjunct lecturer at the College of Education.

Since the interdisciplinary program was created in 1996, students in nursing, pharmacy, the physician assistant program, dentistry, various undergraduate programs, as well as students in the graduate-level counselor education program, have taken courses offered by the Center.