ATTC's Pearls of Wisdom: Investing Soundly By Building the Substance Use Disorder Workforce

By Nancy A. Roget, MS and Cindy Juntunen, PhD, Mountain Plains ATTC

According to Benjamin Franklin, “For the best return on your money, pour your purse into your head.” This is sound advice and one that SAMHSA has followed through its funding of the Addiction Technology Transfer Centers (ATTCs). The ATTCs emphasize preparing the SUD workforce to use evidence-based practices when providing SUD services (harm reduction, treatment, and recovery support) to patients and their families through training and technical assistance activities. Preparing the SUD workforce targets both licensed/certified professionals as well as students.

The Mountain Plains ATTC is one of the original 11 ATTCs. In 1993 the grant was located at the University of Nevada with Dr. Gary Fisher as the initial project director. Called the Mountain West ATTC it first served the states of Montana, Nevada, and Wyoming from 1993-1998. Five subsequent successful grant awards (1998 to present) included new partnerships and changes to the states served. 

Currently, the Mountain Plains ATTC is housed at the University of North Dakota in partnership with the University of Nevada (Nevada) working with Region 8 which includes six states: Colorado, Montana, North and South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming.

SUD Keys to Education rsources guide, developed by the Mountain Plains and Pacific Southwest ATTCs.

Despite changes over the last 30 years, one area of focus remains a priority for the Mountain Plains ATTC: academic programs and products. 

During the initial funding period, the Mountain Plains ATTC built academic programs at Nevada and Great Falls University in Montana, with academic courses also created for the University of Wyoming. The investment of SAMHSA grant dollars built an undergraduate minor and a graduate emphasis in Addiction Treatment Services at Nevada. 

These academic programs still exist; 800-plus students are enrolled and taking undergraduate and graduate courses on prevention, harm reduction, treatment, and recovery support services in-person and online in Spring Semester 2023.

From 1998, on, the Mountain Plains continued its focus on academic programs and products which include but are not limited to:

  • Cross-walk that listed the practice domains of the TAP21 Practice Domains and Competencies for academic courses/curricula- 1999 
  • Work Groups (2000 - present) that include academic faculty from universities and tribal colleges throughout the region, who provide input to ATTC staff on curricular needs as well as the upcoming workforce 
  • Nevada undergraduate courses developed for online delivery 2001

In 2001 the Mountain Plains ATTC created a curriculum infusion effort in response to faculty and institutions reporting difficulties in implementing new programs and courses due to costs and lack of faculty with specific expertise. This infusion process was successfully utilized to find “curricular room” (Dimoff, et al., 2017; Gassman et al., 2001) for SUD and mental health (MH) information as well as a way of highlighting SUD/MH information within a context of a discipline (Redding & Selleck, 1999) This effort was consistent with findings from curriculum infusion research, which demonstrated that the uptake of science-based knowledge into professional practice occurs more frequently if it is ‘functionally relevant’ (Savage, et al., 2018; Taylor & Rafferty, 2003) meaning, taught within a specific discipline or profession. 

Finally, the Mountain Plains developed Curriculum Infusion Packages to support faculty who may have limited SUD expertise. The Mountain Plains ATTC partnered with several different ATTCs to create: slide decks with notes, videos, audio recordings, and experiential learning experiences, and test questions on the neurobiology of addiction, stimulants, and self-care. The purpose of the infusion model is to assist faculty in infusing new knowledge, typically evidence-based practices (EBPs), into existing courses by offering brief ”bites of information.”

In keeping with the curriculum infusion methodology, the Mountain Plains ATTC and Pacific Southwest ATTC created a product called  SUD Keys to Education (SUD Keys), in January 2023. 

This product includes slide decks that are intentionally brief so instruction can be infused in five to 10-minute segments, with some longer options available. Slide decks (not PDFs) are easily downloaded and prepared for immediate use by instructors. Many of the slide decks include video (MP4) recordings and can be used as an alternative instructional delivery method. 

For example, the audio slide decks and videos can be played during live training events or downloaded and listened to by students/participants prior to the class or the event (flipped classroom approach). Slide decks currently available include: Stimulants; Alcohol; Stigma; Recovery Support; and Harm Reduction.

Links to the SUD Keys product are available at the Mountain Plains and Pacific Southwest ATTCs’ websites. This product carries on the ATTC’s 30-year tradition of investment in the SUD workforce through curated academic products.


Dimoff, J. D., Sayette, M. A., & Norcross, J. C. (2017). Addiction training in clinical psychology: Are we keeping up with the rising epidemic? American Psychologist, 72(7), 689–695.

Gassman, R. A., Demone Jr, H. W., & Albilal, R. (2001). Alcohol and other drug content in core courses: Encouraging substance abuse assessment. Journal of Social Work Education37(1), 137-145.

Redding, B. A., & Selleck, C. S. (1999). Perinatal substance abuse education: A review of existing curricula. Substance Abuse20(1), 17-31.

Savage, C. L., Daniels, J., Johnson, J. A., Kesten, K., Finnell, D. S., & Seale, J. P. (2018). The inclusion of substance use-related content in advanced practice registered nurse curricula. Journal of Professional Nursing, 34(3), 217–220.

Taylor, I., & Rafferty, J. (2003). Integrating research and teaching in social work: Building a strong partnership. Social Work Education22(6), 589-602.


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