Serving beyond silos: Professional certificate program prepares IU students to address complex social issues

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While new laws, funding, and research work to mitigate issues like substance use disorder (SUD) and human trafficking, they remain pervasive. Those in certain professions — public safety, social work, and nursing — are still on the frontline, helping people in a time of crisis.

This May, Indiana University will again offer its one-day certificate program that educates students preparing to enter these professions with a variety of sessions on topics like overdose reversal, battling stigma, and identifying and reducing human trafficking in Indiana.

The IU Interagency and Interprofessional Education Initiative, formerly the Grand Challenge Cadet Training Program, is offered through a partnership between the IU Interprofessional Practice and Education Center (IPE), the Center for Rural Engagement, the Responding to the Addictions Crisis Grand Challenge, IU Police Academy, the Department of Criminal Justice, the College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Education, the School of Public Health, the School of Nursing, and the School of Social Work.

Last year, the program drew sixty students from a variety of disciplines. One of those students was Cheyanna Heid, an IU Police Department recruit at the time, now a part-time officer with the department.

The information I learned throughout the day of training has been very beneficial and useful in my career field. Learning about opioids and the effects they have on people is crucial information for individuals in law enforcement.

Cheyanna Heid, IU Police Department

“The information I learned throughout the day of training has been very beneficial and useful in my career field,” said Heid. “Learning about opioids and the effects they have on people is crucial information for individuals in law enforcement.”

Heid said that, fortunately, she has not yet had to apply the knowledge she gained and in fact still has the Narcan—the opioid overdose reversal treatment--she was supplied as part of the course. “I feel grateful that it was supplied to me and I was trained to not only use [it], but I was also trained on how to help individuals in these situations,” she said. “I also found great benefits in learning about substance disorders, effects substance use has on children, and the impact of stigma associated with substance use.”

Heid was offered the opportunity to take the class through the IU Police Academy and learned alongside students from several disciplines including the IU nursing program.

One of those students was Sophia Paflas, then a nursing student and now a nurse.

“The certification course was presented to our program and sounded like a wonderful opportunity to dive more into the specific issue of opioids,” said Paflas.

Paflas says that as a nurse, SUD and its effects are something she deals with regularly. “[Opioid use] is very prevalent in the nursing field,” she said, but the course helped her “develop real-world, problem-solving tools to combat it.”

“The situation of opioid addiction and its repercussions are commonplace in the healthcare field, and often Narcan training has been helpful outside of the career setting for myself and my peers,” she said.

Palfas says that much of the Narcan training and other medical knowledge was already ingrained in her from her nursing program, but the other aspects of SUD were new and valuable.

“I believe that it is definitely important and that the social work and psychology content should be stressed to the nursing and police professions,” she said.

This training initiative highlights the importance and power of interagency collaboration. With the variety of schools and centers working together to share their input on issues common to each profession, there is a capacity for a broader and deeper understanding of how to address it.

Interagency education and immersion through partnership is critical to ensure that our communities have a broad spectrum of disciplines and services available for those individuals struggling with substance use disorders.

Stephen Luce, IU Police Department

“Interagency education and immersion through partnership is critical to ensure that our communities have a broad spectrum of disciplines and services available for those individuals struggling with substance use disorders,” said Stephen Luce, IUPD major and the director for professional standards and education.

“By working collaboratively, community organizations and resources can maximize the overall impact in a more holistic manner for our communities suffering from fallout related to substance use disorders.”

Alex Buchanan, the project manager for the IPE, said that the future looks bright for further collaborations like this one, and they hope to build more partnerships between healthcare and non-healthcare organizations.

“Our program has shown the significant overlap between educators, law enforcement and health care professionals. This is a relationship that we look forward to expanding and adding additional partners along the way,” he said.

The one-day course is scheduled to be offered again this year on May 26 and will feature similar content to last year’s with the addition of the discussion of human trafficking.

“It is incredibly important that other people in law enforcement receive this training. On a daily basis, police officers encounter situations where this information would be needed,” says Heid. “If someone was considering this course, I would say, ‘go for it!’ You will never be able to know when this information will come in handy and it is better to know than to not know.”

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.