INDIANAPOLIS -- Indiana University School of Medicine faculty are expanding the school's psychiatry-based substance use disorder services for adolescents and their caregivers through a five-year, $2.7 million grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
"This grant will allow us to serve more adolescents and families and to serve them more quickly," said Zachary Adams, a psychologist and assistant professor of psychiatry at the IU School of Medicine. "Having capacity for a quick response is so important when it comes to substance use disorders because once you have identified a need, the time to act is now. We want to do whatever we can to avoid having teens sit on long waitlists waiting for evaluations and treatment."
Led by Adams and Dr. Leslie Hulvershorn, associate professor of psychiatry and interim co-chair of school's Department of Psychiatry, the grant will allow researchers and clinicians to better serve adolescents with mild to severe substance use disorders and co-occurring mental health disorders, and their families, by leveraging the existing Adolescent Dual Diagnosis Program at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health and the Adolescent Addiction Access line within the Department of Psychiatry at the IU School of Medicine.
The Adolescent Dual Diagnosis Program is the first substance use disorder clinical program in the Midwest to use Encompass, an evidence-based therapy program for kids and teens ages 10 to 18 who struggle with the difficult combination of substance use disorders and mental health disorders.
The funding will also expand the Adolescent Addiction Access Program's free provider-to-provider helpline for Indiana health care providers caring for youths 17 or younger with substance use disorders. The expansion will enable state health care providers to seek referrals for use of any substance and also for mild to severe disorders. Previously, the line had only been funded to serve adolescents with opioid use disorders.
"We are excited to be able to provide a helpline that will allow any pediatrician, emergency room physician or nurse practitioner to call and receive help with adolescent dual diagnosis cases," Hulvershorn said. "This is a statewide opportunity that will allow clinical settings, especially those that do not have integrated behavioral health services or do not have youth services, to provide support and resources to their patients."
According to Hulvershorn, marijuana use is the most typical among youth. In 2020, it was estimated that 1 in 3 high school seniors had used marijuana in the past year and more than 1 in 5 had vaped a marijuana product. The pandemic caused a big uptick in youth services referrals, Hulvershorn said.
While some people do not consider marijuana use to be as serious as other substances, Adams and Hulvershorn said it can have a huge effect on a young person.
"All aspects of development can be disrupted by substance use, and things can change quickly," Adams said. "There is a lot of research on the potential impacts of substance use on a young person's brain development. But a brief course of care can really turn things around."
Indiana health care providers interested in learning more can contact the Adolescent Addiction Access Program for free, same-day, provider-to-provider consultation with specialists and for referrals. The resource is available from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at 317-278-8434 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.