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Indiana University programs focus on training, treatment & stigmas of substance use disorders

Student says it's important to get training
Posted at 8:00 PM, Nov 15, 2020

Editor's Note: Due to an error in the recent NextLevel Recovery progress report, a previous version of this story said naloxone administration by EMS was up this year compared to January through May 2019. It has been corrected to say naloxone administration is up this year compared to January through September 2019.

BLOOMINGTON — Several programs at Indiana University are training students on substance use disorders. This includes addressing the addictions crisis, treatment, prevention, and breaking the stigma.

The need for these types of programs, treatments, and training, are becoming increasingly important in the ongoing drug epidemic as the number of substance use-related emergencies increase during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Compared to January through September 2019, naloxone administration by EMS is up 68% so far this year in Indiana, according to the latest NextLevel Recovery progress report.

Masters track and Addictions Crisis Certificate program

Ellen Vaughan, an associate professor in the department of counseling and education in psychology in the IU School of Education in Bloomington, says she’s always been interested in studying substance use disorders, both prevention, and treatment.

When she came to IU, she wanted to learn more about training students to work with people who have a substance use disorder.

This curiosity transitioned into different grants and programs and now, she is helping the university launch a master’s track in addictions training.

“We want to reduce stigma, we want to talk about this problem, we want to bring it out in the open so we can figure out the best ways not just to prevent substance use disorders but also treat substance use disorders,” Vaughan said.

Early in her time at IU, Vaughan said she realized students wanted to be able to work with people who had a substance use disorder but felt like they didn’t know enough.

Indiana University

The master's track on addictions allows for students to learn more about the science around substance use disorders, reducing the risk of someone developing a substance use disorder, and treatment.

Melanie Adams, a master's student transitioning into the addictions track, has worked with people in the past and saw the huge need to continue helping people with both mental health and substance use disorders.

“It really was important to me to get the training to help both pieces because there is so much overlap there,” Adams said.

The COVID-19 pandemic is adding stress to everything people are already coping with and substance use disorders aren’t going away, Vaughan said.

“We also know we are continuing to see difficulty in accessing care,” Vaughan said. “Folks with substance use disorder have had a hard time with access to care so that’s part of why having an addictions track in our mental health counseling program is so important. We want to graduate students who are able to go to their communities, really all over Indiana and beyond, and serve those communities well.”

Vaughan is working with other IU campuses on the certificate program on addictions.

Indiana University's campus

The certificate program, developed between IU Interprofessional Practices and Education Center and the IU Bloomington School of Education, gives students an opportunity to learn more about substance use.

Students who are studying education, administration, social work, nursing, and other healthcare programs were encouraged to attend this year’s programs.

IU offered two free workshops this year to provide people with naloxone training and help them respond to substance use disorders.

“We’re really excited about this new track and we’re really excited about the ability to recruit people who want to be clinicians, who want to be counselors treating substance use disorders,” Vaughan said. “And the more people we have committed to doing that the better that we are going to be able to serve our communities.”

Recovery program for young adults

Through the Responding to the Addictions Crisis Grand Challenge initiative, Vaughan is working to help young adults with substance use disorders.

These programs align with the mission of state agencies and approaches to addressing substance use disorders in the state, according to the university.

IU has a training clinic where they are giving mental health services to young adults with mild to moderate substance use disorders but don’t need inpatient care.

“The aim for that is to really think about young people and how do they struggle around substance use, especially in an environment like IU Bloomington where there’s a lot of opportunities to engage in substance use,” Vaughan said. “But we also know there are students here who really do want to talk about their substance use and get some help.”

Ellen Vaughn, professor at Indiana University Bloomington

Vaughan also runs a group intervention for students who identify as being in recovery.

“These are students who may have gone to treatment when they were adolescents before they got to college or maybe at some point over their college career,” she said.

The group allows people to talk about support and how to manage recovery in a college environment but thinking about it in a strengths-based approach.

“These students can come together and can talk about what’s worked for them but also attend to what’s happening in their environment that might be making them not feel well, or making them have concerns about a return to substance use,” Vaughan said.

Reducing stigma

“It’s hard, but coming and talking to somebody can be helpful, and really we want to reduce stigma,” Vaughan said. “It’s a conversation, and it’s a conversation that is focused on you and what you need.”

Vaughan says she thinks stigma is everywhere and sometimes is a barrier for people to get training.

“I think we need to challenge that,” she said. “And we challenge that with things like ‘This is among the most common mental health problems that people face and everybody is touched by this.’ So let’s talk about it. Let’s bring it out in the open, let’s stop talking about substance use disorders as this ugly thing. Let’s bring it to light, let’s be strengths-based and come have a conversation and hopefully find somebody that you can connect with.”

Before switching to the program, Adams says she was told by some supervisors at the in-patient hospital she used to work at she wasn’t capable of working with adult patients.

“That’s just because I think of the stigma they had about these people being criminals and being dangerous to me,” Adams said. “I challenged that, and I was able to work with them and build some really important relationships. I think in a lot of cases they needed a gentler hand than what they were getting even in these in-patient hospitals.”

Adams and Vaughan said they think there is even a stigma in different types of treatments and among healthcare professionals working with people with substance use disorders.

Working with and knowing people who have substance use disorders is one way to reduce the stigma, Vaughan says.

“Because when you have that connection, you do a better job sort of questioning what assumptions you might be making about people who have substance use disorders and the people you are working with,” Vaughan said.

They both say this helps people think about individualized treatment that is best for each person.


If you or someone you know is dealing with a substance use related emergency, call 911.

Students at IU can call the 24-hour crisis line at 812-855-5711.

For more information on resources at Indiana University, you can visit its website.

For more information on resources available to the community from Indiana University, you can click here.

For more information on a recovery organization near you, you can visit the Indiana Recovery Network website.

You can call 211 for help 24/7 in Indiana.

You can call the Indiana Addiction Hotline at 1-800-622-HELP (4357).

To find where you can get Naloxone near you, click here.

To view more resources from NextLevel Recovery Indiana, click here to visit its website.