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ISU awarded $1.1 million grant that will help treat opioid-use disorder

September 13, 2019
Andrew Taylor, Assistant Director of Marketing

Peer and Lawyer, principal investigators
From left, Samuel Peer and Steve Lawyer

POCATELLO – The Idaho State University Department of Psychology has been awarded a $1.1 million federal grant that focuses on improving the prevention and treatment of opioid use disorder in Southeast Idaho.

It’s a two-pronged grant, according to Steve Lawyer, ISU psychology professor and director of clinical training in the ISU psychology department, who is the project director for the grant. First, it is a training grant focused on students in ISU’s accredited Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology. The second major part of the grant is to develop the infrastructure in Southeast Idaho for telehealth and integrated behavioral health to help better treat opioid use disorder.

The name of the grant is the “Idaho Rural Interdisciplinary Health Collaborative” and was awarded by the U.S. Department of Health and Social Service’s Health Resource Services Administration. It is the first ever of this type of grant to be awarded in Idaho and one of the few awarded to a western state.

“There’s been a big push nationally, and appropriately so, for enhancing services for opioid use disorder,” Lawyer said. “The lack of services for opioid use disorder problems is especially acute in rural areas like Idaho, and this grant helps address some of those problems.”

Over the next three years, 21 students in the ISU Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology will receive special training that focuses on evidence-based and trauma-informed interdisciplinary care to prevent and treat opioid use and related substance use disorders.

“Our goal is to train the next generation of  clinicians to have excellent training in interdisciplinary behavioral health,” Lawyer said. “These students will get more experience working with people in other health fields, like physicians, and they’ll also get experience with using telehealth to provide behavioral health care.”

But better training for clinical psychologists is only part of the equation for better opioid use disorder treatment in Southeast Idaho.

“In Southeast Idaho, there is a major problem with access to services,” Lawyer said. “Because we are so rural, people don’t have ready access to behavioral health care. They can’t make it to the clinics that offer the services that they need. So part of the purpose of the grant is to try to develop an infrastructure where we are increasing access to services and utilization of services.”

In Pocatello, Blackfoot, and Idaho Falls, ISU will be working with four different community partners on the clinical training component of the grant, but the grant also has buy-in from state-level agencies such as the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare and the Idaho Office for Drug Policy.

The grant’s co-director, Samuel Peer, ISU assistant professor of psychology, said the grant will use a Community-Based Learning Collaborative “which is a specific model to promote evidenced-based practices.”  

“We are going to train individuals both throughout and across agencies, not just the clinicians that are providing treatment, but also their supervisors and senior leaders who make policy decisions that can support clinicians and their clients,” Peer said. “We are also going to train people that refer and manage cases, so individuals across service roles know how to help each other and collaborate. This will help opioid users better access services, recover with those services, and maintain those gains they’ve received from services.”

It will be a two-way street for clinical psychologists and those with whom they work.

“Our students will be learning how to work with people from other disciplines because if you are really going to treat opioid use disorder, you have to not only be a good therapist, you will have to have good working relationships with nurses, social workers, probation officers, and physicians,” Lawyer said. “But we’re also training those in other disciplines, like pharmacists and physicians, on how they can work with behavioral health services, too.”

Both Lawyer and Peer emphasized the importance of telehealth and online services in providing help to opioid users.

“The other aspect of this that is really important is the telehealth component, so if a person seeking treatment can’t make it to a physical site for treatment, available online services can greatly diminish the barriers to care for that person,” Lawyer said.

Ultimately, the grant will increase services to the people who need them.

“We are going to train far more clinicians, so there will be more people that can be served. Also, we are training those clinicians and related professionals to provide better services, so that those served can recover more – and more quickly,” Peer said.





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