In response to the growing opioid epidemic in Pennsylvania and in the nation, Clarion University College of Health and Human Services announced today that it has developed an opioid treatment specialist certificate, which will be offered online, beginning this fall.
"The certificate was developed to educate treatment professionals in prevention and treatment of opioid abuse and addiction," said Dr. Ray Feroz, professor and chair of the department of human services, rehabilitation, health and sport sciences. "It is one way Clarion can aid in combating the statewide and nationwide opioid crisis."
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Pennsylvania was fourth in the nation in drug overdose deaths in 2015 – an increase of 28 percent over 2014 statistics – and the epidemic continues to grow. Drug overdose has surpassed traffic accidents and gun deaths as the leading cause of death in the United States. More than 33,000 people in the United States died of opioid overdoses in 2015.
"Fighting the ongoing battle against heroin and opioid abuse in the state is a top priority of my administration," Governor Wolf said. "I'm proud to announce this new curriculum with Clarion University because education is a powerful force in this fight and it is my sincere hope that people take advantage of this opportunity to learn more about opioid addiction and what part we can each play in this effort."
"The opioid epidemic has reached into every community, creating a need to have highly skilled professionals dedicated to helping people with addiction," said State Rep. Donna Oberlander (R-Clarion/Armstrong/Forest). "This certificate program will help ensure that those who want to help can be trained in the best and newest treatment methods, without having to travel far away for that education."
Faculty experts in addictions, rehabilitation, social work, psychology and nursing contributed to the design of the certificate, which addresses the specific challenges brought on by the opioid crisis. The coursework provides advanced information on opioid abuse and its prevention, education and treatment. Participants will learn in-depth opioid diagnosis, detox, treatment and recovery aspects, as well as empowerment of patients and advocacy for individuals, and skills to influence legislation and public policy. Participants will:
• Develop working knowledge of commonly abused opioids and drugs, both legal and illegal.
• Plan and evaluate prevention and treatment programs for opioids and other chemical dependency.
• Assess clients' medical and psychosocial needs and assets for developing comprehensive treatment plans for opioids and other chemical dependencies.
• Develop advocacy skills for individual clients and larger systems improvement.
The 12-credit certificate requires no prerequisites. Anyone may pursue the certificate, but it is particularly beneficial to professionals who want to strengthen their credentials and students who want to graduate with stronger job prospects. Feroz said the certificate is particularly pertinent to drug counselors, prevention specialists, case managers, EMTs, emergency room personnel, social workers, HIV/AIDS treatment specialists, school counselors, probation and parole staff, law enforcement, children and family therapists, assessment specialists and other human services professionals who work with impacted clients and families.
"Combating the disease of addiction will take a collaborative effort that includes community education, provider education, addiction treatment, faith-based support and much more," said Sen. Gene Yaw (23rd District). "I commend Clarion University in offering a new certificate program, allowing clinicians to focus specifically on the disease process and how individuals can best be helped."
Yaw is chairman of the Center for Rural Pennsylvania Board of Directors, which has held public hearings since 2014 to examine and discuss current policies and practices related to heroin and opioid addiction, including prevention, treatment and law enforcement efforts.
Dr. Nancyann Falvo, assistant professor of nursing at Clarion University, is also a board member and has participated in the public hearings and in two statewide telephone town hall meetings on heroin and opioid abuse in Pennsylvania. She is among the faculty members who will teach courses for the opioid specialist certificate, and she has found her position on the Center for Rural Pennsylvania board to be vital in staying informed and contributing to potential solutions.
"This certificate program is a good fit for Clarion, as the university has always been a leader in health care," Falvo said. "In my 29 years here, the university has continually responded to the health care needs of the citizens of the commonwealth and has repeatedly become engaged with legislators, health care administrators and local residents."
Falvo incorporates information on heroin addiction into every one of the courses she teaches. "I have seen that our nursing students are witnessing opioid addiction in every clinical setting, from pediatric through geriatrics, inpatient and outpatient settings, and communities across the country," she said. "This is a significant problem in both urban and rural areas, where heroin is now the drug of choice. Heroin addiction is seen across all socio-economic groups, races and genders."
"The public hearings and work of the Center for Rural Pennsylvania have confirmed that there is no single solution to combating this disease of addiction," said Barry Denk, director of the center. "The new certificate program developed by Clarion will enhance the skills of current and future health care practitioners to understand the factors contributing to substance use disorder and the varied treatment plans to help a person achieve recovery."
State Rep. Lee James (R-Venango/Butler) calls the program a "regional blessing." "We are fortunate to have an asset like Clarion University in our area, where people committed to fighting the opioid epidemic can go to learn life-saving and treatment techniques," James said. For those interested in enrolling, please visit www.Clarion.edu/OpioidSpecialist or call Dr. Ray Feroz at 814-393-2052, Department of Human Services, Rehabilitation, Health and Sport Sciences at 814-393-2325, or Admissions at 800-672-7171, ext. 1.
For those interested in enrolling, please visit www.clarion.edu/opioidspecialist or call Dr. Ray Feroz at 814-393-2052, Department of Human Services, Rehabilitation, Health and Sport Sciences at 814-393-2325, or Admissions at 800-672-7171, ext. 1.
(photos credited to Commonwealth Media Services)