The AIMS-SK program explores the background of substance use disorders and gives health care providers the tools to provide the best patient-centered care. (Photo: Submitted)

New USask-led training program to improve care for people with substance use disorders

Individuals struggling with substance use disorders will now have greater access to improved care, thanks to a new training program for health care professionals. The provincial government has provided $255,000 in 2021-22 for the program, which aligns with their commitment to reduce the misuse of prescribed opioids.

Advancing Interprofessional Management of Substance Use Disorders in Saskatchewan (AIMS-SK) will improve health outcomes for individuals with substance use disorders, including people misusing opioids and alcohol. The program will also increase the number of health care professionals able to prescribe opioid use disorder treatment in the province. 

The AIMS-SK program is developed and co-ordinated by the College of Medicine’s Division of Continuing Medical Education (CME) and Continuing Professional Development for Pharmacy Professionals (CPDPP) in the College of Pharmacy and Nutrition, both at the University of Saskatchewan (USask), along with key partners including the Ministry of Health, Saskatchewan Health Authority, health care professionals, and patient advisors.

“As a dedicated group of health care professionals, who are also committed health care educators, we are grateful to our partners at the Government of Saskatchewan for this significant show of support. We share a common view that substance use disorder represents one of our greatest health care challenges which requires modern educational programs to support health care workers. Together, we are committed to enhancing the environments of care as well as the clinical outcomes and experiences of those living with substance use disorder,” said Dr. James Barton (MD), associate dean, USask continuing medical education.

“Our government continues to invest in new initiatives to address substance use disorders, including people misusing opioids and alcohol,” Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Everett Hindley said. “Training more health professionals across the province to prescribe treatments for people struggling with addictions is another way to help save lives.” 

Currently in Saskatchewan, issues related to substance use disorders include growing rates of alcohol and opioid addictions, over-prescribing of opioids, and rising opioid and alcohol-related hospitalizations, at levels that exceed the national average. The training program will increase the number of health care professionals with specialized training to identify, treat and manage patients with opioid use disorder and substance use disorder, resulting in improved and timelier access to treatment services and supports.  

The AIMS-SK program is an ongoing training program that will have two intake sessions per year. The first module will launch on May 7, 2022. The program focuses on interprofessional education that identifies the social factors that contribute to substance use disorders, and approaches to minimize the health risks and stigma associated with substance use disorders. The program will also outline treatment options and safer prescribing practices for health care professionals.