Marshall receives large federal grant to provide substance abuse prevention training for health care students


Marshall University has been awarded a nearly $1 million grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to provide substance abuse prevention and early intervention training to students in a number of health care-related programs.

Amy Saunders, director of student health education programs and principal investigator of the project, said she and others in her field are excited for the opportunity to develop and teach Marshall students the needed skills to deliver the Screening, Brief Interventions and Referral for Treatment (SBIRT) training.

“This training will increase the number of our students who will be able to provide screening, brief intervention and referral for treatment for individuals who are at risk of developing or who have already developed a substance use disorder,” Saunders said. “This project involves multiple campus departments and community agencies.  It’s our hope that this effort will increase access to care for individuals with a substance use or mental health disorder.”

The grant, Saunders said, will be funded for three years and is approximately $315,000 each year—or about $945,000 in all. The program at Marshall will be a collaborative effort among six departments and two professional schools, including the departments of psychology, social work, counseling, public health, nursing and physical therapy, the School of Pharmacy and the Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine.

“This was a collaborative effort and all of the departments assisted in the development of this grant,” Saunders said. “We will also have several community partners who will be assisting—the Cabell-Huntington Health Department, Prestera, Recovery Point, HER Place, the Mayor’s Office of Drug Control Policy and the Cabell County Substance Abuse Prevention Partnership. Our goal is to provide the training to Marshall students in all of the departments listed. SBIRT is a highly effective tool used to prevent and treat substance abuse and misuse.”

The project is set to begin at the end of September.

Marshall students within these fields are the population to be served by this program, which consists of developing and providing culturally sensitive training to teach students the necessary skills to provide evidence-based screening, brief intervention and knowledge to refer patients who are at risk of developing or who have already developed a substance use disorder for appropriate treatment.

“We are very encouraged to fully engage in this outstanding, federally funded, interdisciplinary project,” said Dr. Kevin W. Yingling, dean of the  School of Pharmacy. “The team approach to health care is a very effective tool for better patient outcomes and improved quality of life. I want to congratulate our team of educators at Marshall for their outstanding effort on this grant.”

“This grant will greatly benefit not only students in a variety of health professions at Marshall University but indeed the entire state of West Virginia,” said Dr. Marianna Footo-Linz, chair of the psychology department. “Substance abuse is a serious health issue in our region. A very effective approach in addressing this problem is to have professionals across the spectrum of health care become comfortable addressing the issues with their patients. Having health care professionals in a variety of areas trained to recognize, treat and appropriately refer their patients will be a huge benefit to West Virginia residents.”

Amy Smith, B.S.N., M.Ed., assistant dean for student affairs at the Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine, said, “The school of medicine is pleased and excited to engage with other health care professionals to build this new program that will have a huge impact on a community plagued by substance abuse.”