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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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NMSU School of Nursing continues to tackle opioid epidemic in NM with $200,000 grant

New Mexico State University’s School of Nursing has received a $200,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to fund a project aimed at expanding the number of family nurse practitioners in New Mexico who are trained to prevent and treat opioid- and other substance-use disorders in community-based practices.


A portrait of a woman.
Linda Summers, a faculty member in New Mexico State University’s School of Nursing, will lead a project to expand the number of family nurse practitioners in New Mexico trained to prevent and treat opioid- and other substance-use disorders in community-based practices. Funding for the project comes from a $200,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (Courtesy photo)

The grant will provide funding for NMSU School of Nursing faculty members in the Family Nurse Practitioner program to develop a curriculum that emphasizes integrated mental health and primary care, with content on non-opioid alternatives for managing acute and chronic pain.

The FNP program at NMSU is delivered in a distance-education format, allowing nurses throughout New Mexico and the adjacent border region to earn degrees without relocating.

“Given the psychiatrist and primary care physician shortage in New Mexico, graduating family nurse practitioners with high-level skills in the identification, evaluation and treatment of all forms of substance-use disorder with a focus on the prevention of opioid addiction is a priority for the state and region,” said Linda Summers, chairholder of the Memorial Medical Center Endowed Professorship and director of the FNP program, who will serve as the project director.

In 2018, New Mexico reported a rate of 26.6 deaths per 100,000 people due to drug overdose, higher than the overall U.S. rate of 20.7, according to the New Mexico Department of Health.

The American Association of Nurse Practitioners reports that across the nation, nurse practitioners account for approximately one-quarter of the primary care providers in rural communities where opioid- and other substance-use disorders have caused a public health, social and economic crisis.

“The treatment of substance use and abuse is certainly a challenge, and we find ourselves with a variety of experiences in this area,” Summers said. “One way to address this critical problem is through interdisciplinary teams that have primary care, pharmacist, mental health and substance-abuse specialists working together. This grant will allow us to incorporate into our curriculum the necessary education and tools to assure our FNP students feel confident in this role.”

Summers and her team of NMSU faculty nurse practitioners plan to create a rigorous curriculum and training program, she said, that will deliver knowledge, skills and experience to holistically address the underlying causes of addiction and prepare graduates to integrate substance-use disorder prevention, screening and treatment into their primary care practices.

Summers’ team will include Conni DeBlieck, associate professor; Elizabeth Kuchler, assistant professor; Stephanie Lynch, assistant professor; and Shelly Noe, assistant professor and director of the Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner program.

“The NMSU School of Nursing is well-positioned to provide leadership in integrated mental health and primary care training with our FNP and PMHNP programs and faculty who are dual-certified in both specialties,” said Alexa Doig, chairholder of the Elisa E. and Antonio H. Enriquez Endowed Professorship and director of the NMSU School of Nursing.

Las Cruces physician John Andazola and Las Cruces psychiatrist Ernest Flores, both of Memorial Medical Center, and Ray Stewart, director of substance use services at the Las Cruces-based Amador Health Center, will serve as consultants on the project, Summers said.

Summers’ project is part of a broader effort by the NMSU School of Nursing to address opioid and substance abuse in New Mexico.

Last year, the NMSU School of Nursing received a three-year, $1.35 million federal training grant from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration to expand the number of mental health professionals in New Mexico who are trained in interprofessional settings to effectively prevent and treat opioid-use and substance-abuse disorders in community-based practices.

For more information about the NMSU School ot Nursing, visit https://schoolofnursing.nmsu.edu.