Photo of the fountain in the Abbey Courtyard by Old Main
September 4, 2019

LACEY, Wash. – Saint Martin’s University received a $1.15 million grant from the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services (HHS) Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to fund an opioid workforce expansion program from Sept. 2019 to August 2022. The program, named Saints Opioid Workforce Expansion Program (SOWEP), will provide paid community-based experiential internships for behavioral health students (e.g. master of social work and master of counseling students) in counties throughout the South Sound region. In addition, undergraduate social work, psychology and nursing students will be placed in internships with a mobile clinic and trained in a team-based environment to provide preventive care and education to the community. Saint Martin’s was the only institution in Washington to receive one of the 48 professional opioid workforce expansion program grants from HHS.

“This grant recognizes one of the strengths of a small university in creating multi-discipline, collaborative activities that fully engage students, faculty and professionals in the community,” said Saint Martin’s University President Roy F. Heynderickx, Ph.D. “As a Catholic, Benedictine university, this grant exemplifies the mission of Saint Martin’s to engage the community through service.”

“There is a critical shortage of substance use disorder professionals in Washington state,” said Tam Dinh, Ph.D., LICSW, associate professor of social work and social work program director, who serves as the principal investigator on the grant. “These paid graduate internships will rapidly increase the number of health and behavioral health professionals trained in opioid use and substance use disorders and prepare them to be at the forefront in addressing the current opioid epidemic. The grant also allows us to connect with our community in practical and innovative ways through our mobile clinic; undergraduate social work, psychology and nursing students will bring services to the clients. Students will have the opportunity to engage and connect with those living at homeless encampments and provide health and behavioral health screenings when clients are ready.”

One of SOWEP’s primary goals is to recruit, place, monitor and financially support behavioral health trainees and ensure trainees are placed in high-need, high-demand areas, with focus on children, youth and transitional-age youth. The project aims to strengthen the academic-community partnership to increase the behavioral health workforce and provide care to those with opioid use disorders (OUDs) or substance use disorders (SUDs). SOWEP will also develop an interdisciplinary training curriculum for University and community partners grounded in cultural competency, trauma-informed care, integration of behavioral health with primary care, medication-assisted treatment education and harm reduction models. The program will offer five workshops for agency staff and field supervisors; create a University-community advisory board; and develop a comprehensive strategic plan to promote integration of behavioral health systems and increase infrastructure of skills and expertise. SOWEP will also collect post-graduation data to track where graduates are employed.

Lori Sirs, DSW, LICSW, assistant professor of social work and director of field education, Irene Hauzinger, Ph.D., CDP, chemical dependency instructor, Katya Shkurkin, Ph.D, LICSW, former BSW program director, Teri Moser Woo, Ph.D., RN, ARNP, CPNP-PC, CNL, FAANP, director of nursing, Lindsay Meyer, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology, and Leticia Nieto, Psy. D., LMFT, T.E.P., professor of counseling, contributed to the grant proposal and the development of SOWEP.

Saint Martin’s University is an independent, four-year, coeducational university located on a wooded campus of more than 300 acres in Lacey, Washington. Established in 1895 by the Catholic Order of Saint Benedict, the University is one of 13 Benedictine colleges and universities in the United States and Canada, and the only one west of the Rocky Mountains. Saint Martin’s University prepares students for successful lives through its 29 majors, 11 graduate programs and five certificate programs spanning the liberal arts, business, education, nursing and engineering. Saint Martin’s welcomes more than 1,300 undergraduate students and 250 graduate students from many ethnic and religious backgrounds to its Lacey campus, and more students to its extended campus located at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

For additional information:

Tam Dinh, Ph.D., LICSW
Associate Professor of Social Work
Program Director, Social Work

Kevin Hyde
Media Relations Manager