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Purdue outreach project to tackle substance abuse, mental health issues in three states

Purdue University has been awarded a federal grant to implement an outreach program to help individuals identify and deal with substance abuse disorders and mental health issues.

Stephanie Woodcox, assistant program leader for Purdue Extension in the university's College of Health and Human Sciences, has received a $320,000 grant to oversee and implement the Multistate Opioid Use Disorder Training and Education Project and will be partnering with Extension professionals at Michigan State and South Dakota State universities. The funding is from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's Rural Opioids Technical Assistance Grants.

While the project will offer broad support for mental health and substance abuse issues, one area of focus is opioids.

"Opioids are a concern in communities across the state. Opioid use disorder is a disease, but there is treatment and recovery is possible," Woodcox said. "This funding allows us to implement a program to educate those directly impacted as well as families, communities, health practitioners and the general public. Awareness and education are critical steps in being able to address the issue of opioids and provide help to someone who may be in crisis or in need of resources."

Overdoses related to prescription opioids led to more than 200,000 deaths in the United States from 1999-2016, and the overdose rate was five times higher in 2016 than in 1999, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2017 more than 1,100 Hoosiers died from opioids.

Woodcox said the project will implement multiple strategies that include evidence-based training on mental health and substance abuse disorders, including opioids; web-based educational modules; and online education and professional development. In Indiana and South Dakota, a major effort will be the delivery of the Mental Health First Aid.

While some activities, such as online education, have the potential to reach individuals and professionals nationally, the project's target population is in Indiana, Michigan and South Dakota. Woodcox anticipates reaching about 4,400 individuals, families and health practitioners over the two-year project. The grant supports the first year of work, and a second year of funding anticipated to continue project activities.

She said specific plans for the program's first year in Indiana include:

* Expanding Extension's delivery of Mental Health First Aid.

* Expanding the existing "Combating Opioids" webinar series, hosted in partnership with Michigan State University. Previous webinars are archived on Purdue Extension's opioid information website at

* Creating online training opportunities to teach individuals, families, communities and healthcare providers about opioid misuse and opioid use disorder.

  • Providing easily understandable and accessible information on opioid misuse and opioid use disorder to all 92 Indiana. 

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