COLA Improves Behavioral Health
Addiction and behavioral health issues have dramatically affected the welfare of communities throughout New Hampshire. For instance, the per capita levels of opioid addiction in New Hampshire are among the highest in the nation. The resulting social and economic cost of addiction and behavioral health issues has been tremendous to both our state and the nation. Determining and delivering methods to effectively combat drug addiction that are tailored to our state’s needs will be important. Fortunately, UNH, given its role as the premier research institution in the state, has a number of resources that can be mobilized to address this critical issue and effect change. The College of Liberal Arts is collaborating with other colleges at UNH to bring together faculty that address different aspect of addiction (clinical, moral, religious, biological, social, law, enforcement) to inform the public about current issues related to behavioral health, and to direct collaborative approaches for future treatment plans, communications and policy. For example, Sergey Charntikov is a faculty member in neuroscience whose research program focuses on studying the behavior and neurobiology underlying the development of addiction to drugs of abuse with the ultimate goal of developing a more comprehensive theory of addiction. His approach encompasses a) investigation of short- and long-term effects of drugs of abuse, b) investigation and development of treatment-relevant strategies, and c) improvement of existing and development of novel relapse prevention strategies. Other faculty in the College are working with the The Carsey School to monitor drug use at the state level. Karen Van Gundy is part of a team of researchers documenting substance and behavioral health patters among youth in rural New Hampshire, as part of the Rural Youth Panel Survey in Coos County. She has published several reports that have provided important information about behavioral health patterns to our communities including: Mental Health Among Northern New Hampshire Young Adults: Depression and Substance Problems Higher Than Nationwide, Comparing Teen Substance Use in Northern New Hampshire to Rural Use Nationwide, Teen Stress and Substance Use Problems in Coös: Survey Shows Strong Community Attachment Can Offset Risk, Substance Abuse in Rural and Small Town America.
Often missing from the study of addiction and behavioral health, however, is an approach that seeks to understand the human stories behind each case of addiction. A group of faculty from literature, history, sociology and communication are collaborating to develop an Honors Symposium composed of courses and practical engagement experiences to engage students as well as the local community in a multifaceted exploration of behavioral health. Students will take classes related to addiction and work with health professionals in the community to discuss social/cultural models of behavioral health; elements that are often missing from treatment. Finally, we are working collaboratively with the College and Health and Human Services and their nursing program to develop new curriculum and technologies to interpret, communicate and treat behavioral health problems in our state.