INDIANAPOLIS - The vice president of behavioral health for Community Health Network in Indianapolis says the new Community Behavioral Health Academy will be an invaluable tool for students. The academy launched last month with the goal of addressing the shortage of behavioral health professionals in Indiana. The program was created in an effort to ensure people with substance use disorders receive the proper treatment.

In an interview on Inside INdiana Business with Gerry Dick, George Hurd said the academy’s focus on dual-licensing in clinical social work and clinical addiction counseling created a tailor-made curriculum.

"Before the academy, people would have to take extra classes and incur extra costs because the curriculum wasn't designed to be able to do both mental health and addictions," said Hurd. "But through great partnerships with UIndy and IUPUI, they were able to change their curriculum so students can now go through the coursework and come out eligible for both their license in clinical social work degree and their LCAC for their addictions counseling."

The academy is the result of a partnership among Community Health Network, the Indiana University School of Social Work-IUPUI Campus, the University of Indianapolis and Ascend Indiana. Ascend President and Chief Executive Officer Jason Kloth says Indiana doesn't have the number of professionals needed to help those suffering from substance use disorder.

"Indiana is currently 15th in the nation in terms of the number of overdoses occurring as a result of opioids on an annual basis," said Kloth. "The supply of workers has not kept pace, particularly in the behavioral health field, as a function of the level of educational attainment required. So the Community Behavioral Health Academy aims to address that by bringing the parties together to produce nearly 30 of these professionals on an annual basis, enabling Community to better meet that need."

Kloth says a grant from the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation in Indianapolis to replicate the process of developing the academy in other communities throughout the state.