Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation grant will create new model for training addiction specialists, enabling 3,000 additional Hoosiers struggling with opioid addiction to be served annually.

INDIANAPOLIS (April 13, 2017)—As Indiana’s opioid epidemic surges, our state faces a massive shortage of trained specialists who can help those struggling to overcome heroin and prescription drug addiction. To fill this gap and help put more Hoosiers on a path to recovery, the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation today announced a grant to develop a unique model for training licensed clinical social workers who specialize in substance abuse counseling.

The $376,000, 18-month grant will support Ascend Indiana, a workforce development initiative of the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership, in creating a formally recognized program for behavioral health that focuses on addiction treatment. Ascend, an intermediary, will collaborate with Community Health Network and an education partner to develop the program, which is expected to produce up to 50 behavioral health professionals annually. That will enable an additional 3,000 Hoosier patients to be served each year.

The potential impact is even greater. The program will be designed so that health providers across Indianapolis and the state can scale and replicate it to accelerate the training of addiction specialists.

“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,” said Claire Fiddian-Green, President and CEO of the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation. “The development of this new program marks an important move towards filling Indiana’s looming need for effective addiction treatment.”

Drug overdoses claimed more than 1,200 Hoosier lives in 2015, and our 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.

Indiana’s shortage of professionals who can provide effective treatment for substance use disorder hinders efforts to reduce opioid abuse. Two-thirds of behavioral health positions are currently staffed at half of their full operational capacity, according to a survey of Indiana Council of Community Mental Health Centers (ICCMHC) members. And Indiana ranks 44th nationwide in its capacity to meet the medication-assisted treatment needs of the state’s population, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts.

“This effort aligns perfectly with Ascend’s mission to create pipelines of talent in areas where Indiana faces a pressing workforce need,” said Jason Kloth, President and CEO of Ascend. “In this case, the impact of growing the behavioral health workforce will be life-changing for Hoosiers suffering from addiction and in need of treatment.”

In Indiana, the time required to get a patient into treatment varies from one to three weeks – a troubling reality, since research has found 40 percent of people on a wait list for addiction treatment will drop off within two weeks.

Growing the number of licensed clinical social workers is especially important to meeting the need for treatment. Many health insurance payers only reimburse providers for addiction treatment if services are delivered by graduate-level or licensed behavioral health staff. The new program seeks to expand beyond existing students interested in addiction treatment by developing a recruitment strategy to attract those enrolled in human services-related disciplines.

The Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation aims for this effort to have a catalytic effect on growing more pathways to train addiction specialists. All research and materials that are generated as part of the project will be made publicly available and shared with key stakeholders across the state. And Ascend and its partners will work to raise awareness of the new educational model and to inspire and support the launch of similar programs across Indiana.

Development of the program is underway and will be completed in the next 18 months.


The Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation strives to advance the vitality of Indianapolis and the well-being of its people by addressing the city’s most significant challenges and opportunities. The Foundation is focused on three issue-areas: education, tobacco and opioid addiction, and the life-sciences. To advance its work, the Foundation implements a three-pronged approach: strategic grantmaking, evidence-based advocacy, and cross-sector collaborations and convenings. Learn more at

Ascend Indiana seeks to ensure every Indiana employer has access to the skilled workforce necessary to thrive, and every Indiana citizen has the opportunity to pursue a meaningful career. Ascend is a catalyst across industry sectors to help connect the supply of skilled talent to demand from employers through scalable programs and innovative solutions. To learn more visit,

Francesca Jarosz Brady
317-454-8031(O); 317-450-2617(C)

April 13, 2017 at 6 a.m. EDT