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Grad Students Combat Opioid Crisis

Developing the skills sought after in the workplace to combat the opioid crisis

Graduate students at Millersville University, interested in becoming experts in addiction and recovery, are benefiting from a $1.35 million grant. The majority of the grant supports scholarships of $10,000 for students enrolled in the Master of Social Work (MSW) or $28,000 for students enrolled in the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). There are 16 students in the program right now, with another 10 enrolled to start in the next two years, to develop the skills sought after in the workplace to combat the opioid crisis.

“The opioid crisis is an obvious and critical public health emergency. Tens of thousands of people die every year as a result of drug overdoses, and these deaths are largely related to opiate painkillers,” says Christopher Thomas, a scholarship recipient in the MSW program. “The response needs to be comprehensive, and training professionals (such as MSWs) to work in the field of addictions is a part of this.”

Channel Lowery is a scholarship recipient in the MSW program.

“Students are already benefiting by receiving training from experts in the field of addiction prevention, treatment and recovery,” says Dr. Marc Felizzi, associate professor of social work and the principal investigator on the grant. “Additionally, students are obtaining experiences within an approved agency as part of field placements so they are able to apply their new knowledge and skills.”

In addition to Thomas, Kylie Bradley-Moreschi and Channel Lowery are scholarship recipients in the MSW program. Lowery, who has an internship at Water Street Mission and plans to pursue her doctorate, believes that the opioid issue “is connected to so many other social problems that we are facing in our communities around the country and in Lancaster County related to homelessness, child welfare etc. Working on this issue will in turn contribute to combating other related issues.”

Felizzi, along with the team of Drs. Karen Rice, associate professor/chair of social work; Laura Granruth, assistant professor in social work; and Kelly Kuhns, associate professor/chair of nursing, are actively recruiting students in the MSW program and DNP students who are already psychiatric nurse practitioners. Since the MSW is a joint program with Shippensburg University, they are also recruiting students from the partner campus. Next year’s cohort will have new field placements across Central Pennsylvania.

Kylie Bradley-Moreschi is a scholarship recipient in the MSW program.

Bradley-Moreschi is working at Colonial House, a 90-day inpatient treatment facility that serves individuals with addiction disorders. She says, “I hope to start a non-profit drug and alcohol treatment program that promotes evidenced based treatment. So many people with addiction issues are falling through the cracks because they are not receiving individualized care or the opportunity to heal from their past traumas.”

“Through the grant there were two special trainings last semester, and in spring and fall of 2020 there will be several trainings that students attend to continue to acquire the knowledge and skills in prevention, treatment and recovery of opioid and other substances,” says Rice.

“We have begun collecting data to assess knowledge gained as a result of participating in the fall trainings,” said Granruth. “We are collaborating with other universities across the U.S. that received the grant, to identify scales we will use to measure changes in our students’ knowledge and skills related to opioid addiction, inter-professional values and socialization, and clinical effectiveness.”

The faculty have enhanced three electives within the MSW program (Addictions, Healthcare and Behavioral Health) and will be exploring the possibility of offering an elective that is co-taught by social work and nursing faculty.

“We established an advisory board comprised of addictions treatment professionals, clinical professionals, students, and agency personnel from across Central PA,” says Kuhns. “They have offered us insight on ways to enhance the electives as well as suggestions for trainers.”

“This grant allows Millersville to increase collaboration with community members, professionals and with our colleagues at institutions of higher education across the country,” says Felizzi. “It places us at the forefront of opioid and substance abuse prevention, treatment and recovery, and offers us an opportunity to increase the University’s level of recognition at a number of levels. Most important – participation in the grant gives our students opportunities to develop and display skills that are sought after in the workplace, and places them in a unique position to serve.”

The grant is from the Federal Health Resources and Services Administration. For more information, contact Felizzi at or access the grant link at





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