Addressing the crisis together: IU students prepare to support Indiana residents with substance use disorder


Indiana University is preparing the state’s newest healthcare, criminal justice, and law enforcement professionals to address substance use disorder and its impacts with a multi-disciplinary, holistic approach.

This spring, 60 students from the College of Arts and Sciences, School of Nursing, School of Social Work, School of Education, School of Public Health, and IU Police Department cadet program attended the Grand Challenge Cadet Training Certificate Program. The one-day seminar prepared each student to recognize and respond to opioid addiction and substance overdose within the scope of their respective professional roles and responsibilities.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, there were more than 27,400 substance use treatment episodes in Indiana in 2019. Each episode represents professionals who responded to treat an individual, including law enforcement, nurses and emergency medical technicians, and social workers.

This seminar underscores the importance that substance use disorder does not just impact our professions in silos, be it law enforcement, health care or education, but rather our communities as a whole.

IU Police Department Major Nick Luce

“This seminar underscores the importance that substance use disorder does not just impact our professions in silos, be it law enforcement, health care or education, but rather our communities as a whole,” said IU Police Department Major Nick Luce. “The goal of this seminar was to provide a baseline level of awareness and skillset for all participants, regardless of their respective disciplines, so that we can address this crisis head on to ensure that those impacted in our community receive the appropriate resources and treatment. Now more than ever, interprofessional collaboration and teamwork are critical to ensure that we can respond to this crisis appropriately as a community, recognizing the human element first and foremost.”

Students learned to administer the life-saving opioid overdose treatment naloxone and discussed best practices in transfer of care from law enforcement, healthcare, and school system perspectives; the stigma of addiction; supporting children of parents living with substance use disorder; and motivational interviewing.

“How are first responders supposed to help members of their community if they don’t first understand them? This training gave us the perspective of someone who was able to overcome addiction and is making strides to end the stigma, humanize the person suffering with the disorder, and help others understand the difficulties people with substance use disorder face,” said Megan O’Donnell, an IU Police Department recruit at IU Bloomington.

The seminar was facilitated by Alex Buchanan from the IU Interprofessional Practice and Education Center in conjunction with the Center for Rural Engagement, Responding to the Addictions Crisis Grand Challenge, IU Police Academy, Department of Criminal Justice, College of Arts and Sciences, School of Education, School of Public Health, School of Nursing, and the School of Social Work. The program was made possible through a partnership with the Monroe County Health Department, Sandra Eskenazi Mental Health Center, and Indiana Center for Recovery. Partners are planning to offer similar seminars in the future during the academic year and in the summer.

“This training is incredibly important, because it informs and educates future professionals--police, social workers, nurses, teachers, and public health administrators--with a team-based approach to assisting people in need,” said Todd Burkhardt, director of campus partnerships at the IU Center for Rural Engagement.

The IU Center for Rural Engagement improves the lives of Hoosiers through collaborative initiatives that discover and deploy scalable and flexible solutions to common challenges facing rural communities. Working in full-spectrum community innovation through research, community-engaged teaching and student service, the center builds vision, harnesses assets and cultivates sustainable leadership structures within the communities with which it engages to ensure long-term success.