Date of Conferral



Doctor of Social Work (DSW)


Social Work


Pablo Arriaza


This study explored the roles and responsibilities of social workers providing services to nonmedical prescription drug users (NMPDU). Researchers have indicated NMPDU disproportionately affects people living in rural communities. The overarching research question sought to explore the concerns of social workers when providing services to patients coping with NMPDU in the rural community of Ulster County, New York. The intention was to examine systemic challenges facing rural social workers when attempting to decrease morbidity risks and increase the health of Ulster County residents. A total of 7 social workers participated in 3 focus groups to explore their ideas for defining, clarifying, and identifying solutions to the problem. The social exchange theory was used to frame the roles and responsibilities of social workers within rural communities at the macro, mezzo, and micro levels. Qualitative content analysis identified 5 themes: roles and responsibilities, barriers, education, treatment interventions, NMPDU and illicit substances of use. The results of the study included advocating for the fair and equitable distribution of resources for all residents coping with NMPDU in Ulster County, their responsibility to collaborate on pressing matters and educate physicians, community service providers, local legislators, individuals, and families of the warning signs and harmful effects of NMPDU. Findings may effect social change by enhancing the role of social workers by reducing overdose and death rates of NMPDUs.