First-In-The-Nation Education Principles for Social Worker Education

October 10, 2017

Core principles address addiction and opioid treatment training at Wheelock and all other Massachusetts schools of social work

Social Work EventThe Baker-Polito Administration announced a first-in-the-nation set of educational core principles for social workers, the largest force on the front lines of the opioid crisis. The Social Work Education Core Principles for the Prevention and Management of Substance Misuse are designed to ensure that the 4,300 social work students enrolled in Massachusetts are equipped with the knowledge and skills vital to effectively combat addiction. Governor Charlie Baker was joined at the State House by Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders, Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel, Mental Health Commissioner Joan Mikula, and deans and program managers from the nine schools of social work—including Wheelock College—at a meeting to formalize the principles.

"We are proud to partner with all of the Commonwealth's schools of social work to ensure the next generation of providers is exceptionally well prepared to prevent and treat substance misuse," said Governor Baker. "This agreement will help Massachusetts continue the progress we made two years ago when we became the first state in the nation to require medical and dental schools to train their students in substance misuse prevention and care."

"Massachusetts' 4,300 social workers are on the front lines of battling the opioid epidemic every day," said Lt. Governor Karyn Polito. "These principles will help ensure future social workers can implement life-saving strategies so that fewer families have to experience this devastating disease."

The Baker-Polito Administration has increased annual spending for substance misuse prevention and treatment by 50 percent, not including MassHealth initiatives that expand access to residential treatment and evidence-based care for the state's most vulnerable populations. The Massachusetts Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers and the deans and program directors of the Commonwealth's nine graduate schools of social work are the latest to partner with the Commonwealth on this groundbreaking effort to provide future generations of social workers with educational training to prevent and treat substance misuse.

New Tools for Front Line Social Workers

"Almost every front line social worker will engage with a client struggling with substance use disorder or a family with a loved one struggling over the course of their career. They must be equipped with the best clinical tools to help clients navigate a path to treatment and recovery," said Secretary Sudders. "We are appreciative of the deans for their commitment to increasing their students' understanding of the serious impact of opioid misuse.''

"This is the latest chapter in our ongoing efforts to advance the education and awareness of those who serve on the front lines of helping people affected by the opioid epidemic,'' said Commissioner Bharel. "The commitment of our schools of social work strengthens a partnership that has created a sea change in the education of our health and human services workforce in Massachusetts in addressing substance use disorders.''

Wheelock Among Colleges Committed to Addiction Education and Training

As part of the agreement, each of the nine schools of social work will incorporate addiction education and training into their curriculum in the form and manner most appropriate for the institution, guided by the core principles. The nine schools of social work include Boston College, Boston University, Bridgewater State University, Salem State University, Simmons College, Smith College, Springfield College, Westfield State University, and Wheelock College.

These schools of social work now join medical schools, community health centers, and nursing, physician assistant and dental schools, in emphasizing substance use disorder education that already has touched more than 8,500 students in the Commonwealth.

"It is essential that we partner with the social work community to train students how to screen, treat, and care for individuals at high-risk for substance misuse and those already with the disease," said Commissioner Mikula. "Addressing the underlying behavioral and emotional of needs of individuals will greatly aid in their path to recovery."

Pictured: Wheelock Dean of Social Work, Leadership, and Youth Advocacy Hope Haslam Straughan (far left) joins Governer Baker, Lt. Gov. Polito and other social work educators at the State House announcement of the new initiative. Photo courtesy of Shira Schoenberg/The Republican.

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