Connecting community partners and social work academic programs: a field evaluation of addiction treatment education in Indiana

Dane Minnick, Assistant Professor, Social Work, Ball State University and Daejun Park, PhD, MSW, Ohio University

This presentation details the results of a field survey that measured 43 substance use treatment program directors’ perceptions of the initial preparedness of newly graduated social work students to deliver addiction treatment services in professional settings following graduation. Presentation attendees will gain insight into how well social work academic programs in Indiana are preparing students to provide a critical mental and behavioral service, and will be able to identify specific treatment competencies that are valued by experts in the field. We will also highlight the importance of engaging community partners in the evaluation of educational practices and teaching pedagogies.

This research initiative presents a clear example of the importance of engaging community partners in the evaluation of educational practices and teaching pedagogies in institutions of higher education. For social work, the purpose of higher education is to provide students with critical thinking skills, the knowledge to make informed decisions that benefit clients and communities, and to prepare them to provide essential social services and supports following graduation. It is of significant importance that students graduating from social work programs in Indiana are fully prepared to meet the critical service needs of the population in the state upon entering the professional workforce, especially because they enter into a professional role where they have the power to inflict significant harm upon individuals and communities if they are poorly trained. Incorporating community partner evaluations of students is a significant safeguard for “doing no harm” and provides unique insight into how educational practices designed to improve community health outcomes and increase the “common good” can be enhanced through the utilization of partnerships with community stakeholders.

The purpose of this presentation is to inform attendees about:
1. Substance use treatment program directors/community partners’ perceptions of the quality of substance use treatment education provided in social work academic programs in Indiana;
2. The importance of including community partners in evaluating academic practices and teaching pedagogies.

The objectives of this presentation are to provide attendees with the information to:
1. Identify whether community partners feel social work programs are adequately training social work students to provide substance use treatment services;
2. Identify why it is important for community partners to be involved in the evaluation of academic programs;
3. Identify ways substance use education can be improved in social work programs with an emphasis on community needs and community engagement.

Two presenters will use a digital poster to detail the study methodology, review the findings, and spark active attendee discussion on the results and presentation objectives. The primary presenter will detail the methodology and findings, and the co-presenter will discuss the importance of partnering with community stakeholders to evaluate teaching practices.

No specific audience is targeted by this presentation as the presentation objectives will be useful to attendees from all backgrounds and experience levels. However, attendees with a background in mental and behavioral health should be particularly interested in attending the presentation.

The primary presenter is a former fellow with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, served as a consultant for the New York Office of Addiction Services and Supports, and is an assistant professor in the social work department at a local university who specializes in addictions and social work education. The co-presenter is an assistant professor in the social work department at a local university who also specializes in addictions research. Both presenters have published studies on addiction in peer-reviewed journals, one of which specifically used the methodology employed in this proposal in New York state. IRB consent was obtained for this study, and one publication on the results is pending review.