KANSAS CITY, Mo. – It hasn’t been that long since the program was relocated to the University of Missouri-Kansas City campus, but Heather Gotham said she thinks a collaborative aimed at improving the training health care workers receive for treating addiction problems already has made a contribution.
As an associate research professor, Gotham is part of the university collaborative that in the fall moved to the Hospital Hill campus from offices near downtown.
The collaborative, among other things, disseminates information about best practices for treating substance-use disorders. Gotham recently talked about addiction as a guest lecturer in a mental health course for students pursuing a bachelor’s degree in nursing.
“I felt really good that I was able to kind of help bolster – it’s a great education course they are already getting – with some more up-to-date information,” she said, “and we will be doing the same thing for the psychiatric and mental health nurse practitioners.”
Called the Collaborative for Excellence in Behavioral Health Research and Practice, the group includes officials with a national network of Addiction Technology Transfer Centers.
Funding for the centers is through the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
The collaborative includes a regional center serving Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, and Iowa along with a national coordinating office that serves the entire 14-center network.
Integrating its expertise into the curriculum is just one development that led to last week’s announcement that the university has changed the name of its nursing school. The new name is the UMKC School of Nursing and Health Studies.
“And that name represents more than just semantics,” UMKC Provost Gail Hackett told a group of students, faculty and staff who gathered for the March 4 announcement.
“It represents a vision,” she said. “That vision is to provide education and professional training for a new era in health care.”
The school trains students to become hospital or clinic administrators, patient advocates and health educators. It also trains the medical workers needed to manage the transition from paper charts to electronic medical records.
“Some of these jobs did not even exist 10 years ago,” said Lora Lacey-Haun, the school’s dean. “Now, demand for skilled graduates is expanding rapidly.”
UMKC started its Bachelor of Health Sciences program two years ago with 20 students, Lacey-Haun said, and the school anticipates a class of approximately 500 students next year.
UMKC Chancellor Leo Morton said the name change, and the expanded program it highlights, reflects the orientation of the entire university. The institution aims to serve the evolving needs of the community, he said, including responding to the changing world of health care.
“That is our mission,” Morton said. “That is what we are here for.”
The federally funded addiction research and education center has had a longstanding relationship with UMKC, said Pat Stilen, director of the regional office.
But it had limited interaction with students and faculty, she said, given that it shared off-campus quarters with the university’s Institute for Human Development and other programs.
Stilen credited Lacey-Haun with suggesting last year that all the components of the broad-based behavioral health collaborative move into offices at the School of Nursing and Health Studies.
“She really felt strongly that we needed to be in this space to really integrate and become part of the school,” Stilen said.
Officials with the collaborative said the proximity has encouraged speaking requests, such as the guest lecture provided by Gotham, and drop-in visits from faculty seeking information.
“I have had some conversations with the Bachelor of Health Sciences faculty about what are some areas of education or training that their students could use, what are some of the health careers that are addiction-treatment related that their graduates could get into,” Gotham said.
The collaborative moved to the new space shortly before winter break, Stilen said, and interaction with students and faculty began in earnest after the first of the year.
In late January, Stilen said, the national coordinating office brought in a leading expert on treating addictions in adolescents. He provided a guest lecture to students and faculty.
One idea still in the planning stage is to help students in the nursing simulation center learn about screening for substance-use disorders.
Stilen said she hopes the collaborative staff members can raise awareness among students that addiction treatment is a field worthy of specialization.
The traditional view, she said, is that substance-use professionals are mainly counselors who are either recovering addicts or come from families that have experienced addiction.
But now, she said, “we see that nurse practitioners are going to do a lot of the prescribing at the primary care level for these new medications that are coming out to treat addiction disorders … and obviously you need medical people working in concert with counseling.”