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Tech Transfer in Action Blog Series: Infusing Evidence-Based Substance Use Disorder Treatment and Recovery Information into Existing U.S. College and University Curricula

Beth Rutkowski, MPH

Co-Director, Pacific Southwest Addiction Technology Transfer Center, HHS Region 9

Developing a competent, highly skilled multidisciplinary workforce to provide effective treatment and recovery services to individuals living with a substance use disorder is a cornerstone of the training and technical assistance occurring throughout the SAMHSA-funded Addiction Technology Transfer Center Network. To be most effective, workforce development should begin at the pre-service education level, so that as new professionals graduate and enter into the field, they have the advantage of being equipped with the most up-to-date, science-based clinical tools.

For this reason, a key element of the Pacific Southwest ATTC’s five-year work plan is the development and distribution of a series of Curriculum Infusion Packages (CIPs) on a variety of targeted topics. The first, a 5-part CIP on Opioid Use Disorders (OUD), was developed and released in late summer/early fall 2019. The main developers were Beth Rutkowski, MPH, and Nancy Roget, MS, with additional guidance and editing support provided by Terra Hamblin and Drs. Thomas E. Freese, Michael Shafer, and Joyce Hartje.

The OUD CIP was developed for college and university faculty to infuse brief, science-based OUD-specific content into existing substance use disorder-related course syllabi (e.g., foundations of addiction, screening and assessment, general health-related classes, etc.). Instructors can select the specific content to infuse throughout the duration of the course, depending on specific needs of the learners. Each slide contains notes for the instructor to provide guidance, as necessary. References are included in each slide and handouts when possible.

Part 1 of the OUD CIP provides an overview of addiction as a brain disease, a description of opioids and how they work in the brain and body, the acute and chronic effects of opioid use, the epidemiology of the opioid epidemic, and resources for continued learning. Part 2 discusses the importance of integrated, holistic care for people with OUDs, tools to address the opioid epidemic, the difference between an opioid agonist and antagonist, a review of FDA-approved medications for OUD, and resources for continued learning. Part 3 reviews opioid overdose and prevention strategies. Part 4 provides discusses of the importance of using language that helps decrease stigma associated with SUDs. Lastly, Part 5 provides an overview of recovery supports and treatment recommendations for people with opioid use disorders.

The slide decks are designed to be used by academic faculty in behavioral health programs, trainers, behavioral health providers, and state/county agency staff members for a variety of audiences. Educators are free to use these slides and the pictures, but are asked to provide credit to the Pacific Southwest ATTC when using them by keeping the logo on each slide and referencing the Pacific Southwest ATTC at the beginning of their presentation(s).

For the Opioid CIP, the Pacific Southwest ATTC developed a two-part marketing and dissemination strategy. Wave 1 distribution occurred in August 2019 and targeted more than 160 colleges and universities across HHS Region 9 with a nursing, social work, psychology, and/or SUD counseling program or school. Wave 2 distribution occurred in September 2019 and targeted an additional 90 Region 9-based colleges and universities with a medical, criminal justice, community health service, and/or public health program or school. In addition, leadership in all of the community colleges across the six U.S.-affiliated Pacific Jurisdictions received a link to the electronic copy of the CIP. In a two-month time period from October 1-November 30, 2019, the OUD CIP was viewed and downloaded more than 540 times. Subsequent CIPs will be distributed in a single wave, and the PSATTC evaluation team will follow-up with educators approximately one month following receipt of the new CIP to assess the usefulness of and satisfaction with the information featured in the packages.

Future CIPs released in Years 03-05 of the funding cycle will focus on a variety of topics, including:

  • Compassion Fatigue
  • Stimulant Use Disorders – Methamphetamine and Cocaine
  • Alcohol Use Disorders
  • Chronic Pain Management
  • Smoking Cessation Strategies

To view and download the OUD CIP, please visit: Additional information is available at or by emailing Beth at [email protected].

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The opinions expressed herein are the views of the authors and do not reflect the official position of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), SAMHSA, CSAT or the ATTC Network. No official support or endorsement of DHHS, SAMHSA, or CSAT for the opinions of authors presented in this e-publication is intended or should be inferred.