Fairbanks Foundation doles out $376,000 to train army of addiction specialists

To help fight Indiana's growing opioid epidemic, a local foundation said it is awarding a $376,000 grant to train up to 50 new addiction specialists a year who can "help put more Hoosiers on a path to recovery."

The Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation, which awards grants in the areas of health, education and the "vitality of Indianapolis," announced Thursday morning the money could help an additional 3,000 Hoosiers a year suffering from opioid addictions.

It is awarding the money to Ascend Indiana, a workforce development initiative of the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership. Ascend plans to use the money to collaborate with Community Health Network and an unspecified educational partner to develop a program to train licensed clinical social workers who specialize in substance abuse counseling.

Drug overdoses in Indiana claimed more than 1,200 lives in 2015. The Hoosier state ranks 17th nationally for drug overdose deaths, with the highest number of fatalities occurring in Marion County.

A study released last fall by the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation showed that the lifetime medical and economic costs of 2014 deaths in Indiana were $1.4 billion.

"The opioid epidemic continues to devastate Hoosier families and communities, and to combat it, we must ensure those struggling with addiction have access to treatment from behavioral health professionals,” Claire Fiddian-Green, CEO of the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation, said in a statement. “The development of this new program marks an important move towards filling Indiana’s looming need for effective addiction treatment.”

Fairbanks said a shortage of addiction specialists is slowing the ability to get patients into treatment programs. In Indiana, patients often wait up to three weeks to get into programs, and many addicts drop off the wait list.

Fairbanks and Ascend said it hopes the new training program will create a new pipeline of talent. They said the research and materials will be made publicly available to support the launch of similar programs.

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