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Breaking Free of Addiction

On the front lines in the fight against opioids

Breaking Free of Addiction

Illustration by Chris Gash

Nancy Ochoa used heroin for the first time when she was 15 years old. At 16, after the birth of her first child, her occasional drug use had turned into a “necessity.”

Ochoa, now in her mid-20s and a mother of two, is one of hundreds of patients in recovery after receiving help from social workers educated and trained at UTA.

The School of Social Work will be able to train more addiction recovery specialists under a new $1.3 million grant from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration as part of its Opioid Workforce Expansion Program. UTA will award at least 81 advanced graduate social work students $10,000 scholarships to intern with different health organizations and federally qualified health centers. The project is led by Debra Woody, senior associate dean in the School of Social Work and director of UTA’s Center for Addiction and Recovery Studies (CARS).

“There is a tremendous workforce shortage and a lack of behavioral health providers to meet the needs of this crisis,” says Katherine Sanchez, associate professor in the School of Social Work and part of Dr. Woody’s team. “Through this grant we will train students to address and respond to the opioid epidemic through evidence-based practices.”

Ochoa sought help after eight years of opioid use.

“I didn’t want my baby and me to be another statistic,” she says, crediting her progress in part to everyone involved in her recovery at CARS.

“Recovery will be a lifelong journey, but I’m hopeful,” she says. “My scars are a reminder of where I’ve been and where I don’t ever want to be again.”

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