Date of Conferral



Doctor of Social Work (DSW)


Social Work


Peter Meagher


There has been a dramatic increase in opioid-related overdoses and deaths that have had extensive health impacts in Delaware County, New York. Social workers play a crucial role in working with individuals who have substance use and co-occurring disorders. The study was guided by ecological systems theory and the generalist intervention model focused on the engagement process between social workers and local young people. The current action research study explored the social work practice problem of challenges encountered by clinical social workers who engage in services with young adults ages 18-25 who have or are at risk for substance use disorders in Delaware County. It is essential to identify these challenges to help improve social work services that may potentially reduce substance use rates. The practice focused research question asked the participants their perception of the challenges in providing substance use services for young adult's ages 18-25 who reside in Delaware County. A focus group took place with 4 local private practice, licensed clinical social workers and 1 agency-based, licensed master-level social worker who all have experience working with Delaware County residents. Content analysis was used to explore and organize the data. The study revealed 7 themes that included client resistance, cultural issues, economic factors, professional competence, practitioner limitations, resource gaps, and client engagement. According to the participants, greater advocacy efforts are needed for clinical social work services because of the focus on both the environmental and emotional aspects of service provision. Possible implications for social change will be reduced service gaps that will result in more support options for those struggling with substance use.