New degree offering hopes to bring more mental health professionals into workforce

The School of Social Work will offer a new degree this fall called Bachelor of Science in Substance Use and Treatment to increase the number of professionals working in mental health and substance treatment facilities.  

Originally, this topic was only available through a course titled Treatment of Addictive Behaviors but has since evolved into a degree. About one in 10 Americans have reported starting or increasing substance abuse as a way of coping with stress or emotions relating to COVID-19, according to the American Psychological Association.   

Karen Magruder, licensed social worker, undergraduate programs director and assistant professor of practice, has seen personally and professionally how substance use disorders can impact people’s lives in different ways.  

Magruder said she’s witnessed how much of a negative impact substance abuse can have on individuals, families and communities and how much opportunity there is for growth with treatment. 

“Treatment can really make a difference and turn things around,” she said. 

There is a need for skilled, competent and passionate clinicians who are able to do the important work, especially given the rise of the opioid epidemic, Magruder said.  

Donald Schuman, social work assistant professor of practice, said Texas suffers from significant drug crises and is in need of more resources to

combat substance use.  

“We have a methamphetamine crisis in Texas, which probably rises to and maybe even surpasses our opioid problem,” Schuman said. 

The degree will focus on using different approaches to understand the biological, psychological and social aspects influencing substance use disorders and related behaviors.   

The new degree will enable students to assess and treat individuals, families and communities. The degree will be available face-to-face and fully online.   

Due to Texas mainly being a rural state, Schuman said there has not been enough access to resources for both treatment providers and those who want to seek treatment. 

“What we hope to do is put clinicians out in the rural areas,” he said.  

Tori Olmos, Clinical Services director at Millwood Hospital in Arlington and UTA alumna, said many individuals who develop substance use disorders are often diagnosed with mental disorders as well. 

“Multiple population surveys have found that about half of those who experience a mental illness during their lives will also experience substance use,” Olmos said.   


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