$1.9 million grant to fund social work school's new center on addictions

November 19, 2000

St. Louis, Mo., Nov. 20, 2000 - The George Warren Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis has received a 5-year, $1.9 million grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse to fund a first of its kind center for addictions research. The Comorbidity and Addictions, Prevention, Intervention and Treatment Center (CAP-IT) will be directed by Arlene R. Stiffman, Ph.D., professor of social work.

The CAP-IT center will support groundbreaking research on addictions interventions for underserved populations with both mental health and HIV risk problems. The center also will seek to improve the delivery of services to these underserved populations, evaluate addictions prevention and drug-abuse treatment programs in multiple service sectors, and analyze the cost and efficacy of treatment services.

"The NIDA center provides an unprecedented opportunity to conduct cutting edge research that will enable social workers and other key providers to make a quantifiable difference in helping people with substance abuse problems," said Stiffman, an expert in child and adolescent mental health issues as well as in HIV risk behaviors.

"The majority of substance use services are in health-care sectors where social workers are in the trenches. Experience tells us that clients with combined mental health and addictions problems are in dire need of new interdisciplinary approaches."

Shanti Khinduka, dean of the social work school, noted that the new center is the first affiliated with a school of social work nationally. "This innovative center will join our three existing centers - the Kathryn M. Buder Center for American Indian Studies, the Center for Mental Health Services Research and the Center for Social Development - in continuing our tradition of interdisciplinary, practice- and policy- relevant research," Khinduka said.

"All of our centers focus on prevention and intervention strategies pertaining to significant social problems that affect large segments of our society. The studies conducted under the CAP-IT center promise to make a positive impact on the way services are delivered to populations with mental health and drug addiction problems."

As a national leader in drug abuse research, the NIDA center will fund pilot projects, sponsor seminars and publish articles on groundbreaking findings. The center will draw upon the interdisciplinary expertise of Washington University faculty, national drug abuse researchers and prominent practitioners in the field.

In addition to social work professionals, it will bring together Research Triangle Institute economists and faculty from the Washington University Department of Psychiatry, Division of Health and Behavior Research and Department of Mathematics in Arts and Sciences. Both a Scientific Advisory Board and a Practice Enhancement Advisory Board will ensure that the center meets its goals.

A prolific researcher, Stiffman brings a wealth of expertise to the new center from her role as associate director of the school's Center for Mental Health Services Research. Funded by the National Institute on Mental Health, the 7-year-old center reflects the school's exemplary background in developing and managing interdisciplinary research centers.

Stiffman will be joined at the NIDA center by associate professors of social work David Pollio, Ph.D., and Wendy Auslander, Ph.D., who will serve as associate directors. Matthew O. Howard, Ph.D., assistant professor of social work, will be the senior researcher and other faculty will serve as research associates, statisticians and consultants. The center also will enable doctoral students to receive hands-on training as research assistants. Five inaugural projects underline the center's diverse research goals.

The pilot projects are:

Stiffman believes social workers are in a unique position to address the complexity of addiction and HIV risk problems. "The field of social work has a singular familiarity with service delivery systems, referral processes and the range of community services available to underserved populations," Stiffman said. "Experience shows that only a small proportion of individuals who meet diagnostic criteria for substance abuse or dependence receive care from a specialist. Most receive uncoordinated care or services addressing only one aspect of the individual's needs."

According to Stiffman, people with mental health disorders combined with drug addiction problems often have the most difficulty obtaining appropriate services due to the separation of mental health and substance abuse service systems. At the same time, underserviced populations - such as minorities, women, children, adolescents and older adults - often are unable to access specialty care or choose to rely upon non-specialty sectors for care.

"While effective prevention and intervention efforts depend upon recognition of the need for and subsequent access to services, providers often fail to recognize the need for addictions services," she said. "The new center not only will disseminate vital research to front-line providers about the multifaceted aspects of addiction problems, but also offer interdisciplinary approaches to the field, including economic analyses, evaluation of available services and innovative solutions."

Washington University in St. Louis

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