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BOSTON — The 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 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.
“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.’’
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.”
CORE PRINCIPLES FOR
THE PREVENTION AND MANAGEMENT
OF SUBSTANCE MISUSE
In the appropriate setting, using recommended and evidence-based methodologies, with a clear understanding of the cultural contexts of the individuals they serve, the graduating social work student should demonstrate the independent ability and/or knowledge to:
Identify and incorporate relevant information regarding health inequities, current and historical drug policies, criminal justice practices, and related forms of systemic oppression into planning how to support individuals in the management of their substance use disorder, and recognize that in order to have a better chance at recovery, an individual’s basic needs must be met, including safe and stable housing, primary health care, mental health care, and access to ongoing support services as needed.