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New UT Arlington Bachelor’s Degree Targets Growing Substance Use And Treatment Problem In The U.S.

Female With Her Head OnThe Table With Drugs In Front Of Her
About 70,000 jobs will be needed to serve people in need of intervention.

Substance abuse disorders are believed to cost the U.S. about $740 billion a year. But there's a shortage of trained professionals to respond to this problem.

UT Arlington has offered the Substance Use and Treatment program for years as a minor, but Allison Tomlinson, Ph.D., an assistant professor in practice, told KERA’s Sam Baker why the school of social work upgraded the program, beginning with the use of the term substance use instead of abuse.


Substance Use Vs. Substance Abuse

Substance abuse is a term professionals in the field try to no longer use principally because it’s more stigmatizing in terms of considering substance use as something that's morally wrong.

We realize now it's greater than that, that things have taken a turn towards being more humanizing and understanding the issue of substance use more.

So substance use is intentionality on the school of social work's part to help people understand and empathize with the plight of someone who is trying to actively overcome addiction and recover.

How Big Is The Struggle?

  • 81% of counties in Texas report having a shortage of mental health professionals, especially in substance use treatment.
  • This area of practice has a projected growth of 22% by 2028.
  • About 70,000 jobs will be needed to serve people in need of intervention.
  • The population’s rising due to epidemic issues with substance use.

We know there's specialized training people need in order to be able to serve individuals affected by substance use. So UT Arlington’s at a point where we're able to offer that.

About The Degree Program

There’s a growing awareness about the type of skills and training you need to provide the services under substance use treatment — a specific skillset that people need to be able to intervene well and effectively.

UTA’s program is the first of its kind in Texas to be housed in a school of social work. Social work is a very broad-reaching profession and at the same time a specific way of intervention. Coupling substance use treatment with the school of social work gives our graduates a very unique skillset.


UT Arlington Substance Use and Treatment Degree Program

Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders

Texas Substance Use Disorder Landscape – March 2018

Agency Action Plan to Address Substance Use

Interview highlights were lightly edited for clarity.

Got a tip? Email Sam Baker at You can follow Sam on Twitter @srbkera.

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Sam Baker is KERA's senior editor and local host for Morning Edition. The native of Beaumont, Texas, also edits and produces radio commentaries and Vital Signs, a series that's part of the station's Breakthroughs initiative. He also was the longtime host of KERA 13’s Emmy Award-winning public affairs program On the Record. He also won an Emmy in 2008 for KERA’s Sharing the Power: A Voter’s Voice Special, and has earned honors from the Associated Press and the Public Radio News Directors Inc.