(photo courtesy of the IU School of Medicine)

The Indiana University School of Medicine has received a five-year, $2.7 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to expand a substance use program geared towards adolescents and their caregivers. The money will allow IUSM to add faculty to its psychiatry-based disorder services.

“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,” said Zachary Adams, a psychologist and assistant professor of psychiatry at the IU School of Medicine. “We want to do whatever we can to avoid having teens sit on long waitlists waiting for evaluations and treatment.”

Adams says the grant will allow researchers and clinicians to better serve adolescents with mild to severe substance use disorders and co-occurring mental health disorders.

The funding will also expand the program’s free provider-to-provider helpline for Indiana health care providers caring for youths 17 or younger with substance use disorders. IUSM says the expansion will also enable state health care providers to seek referrals for use of any substance and also for mild to severe disorders.

“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,” said Dr. Leslie Hulvershorn, associate professor of psychiatry and interim co-chair of school’s Department of Psychiatry. “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.”

According to Hulvershorn, marijuana use is the most typical among youth. In 2020, it was estimated that one in three high school seniors had used marijuana in the past year and more than one in five had vaped a marijuana product.

While some people do not consider marijuana use to be as serious as other substances, Adams and Hulvershorn say 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.”