Senior political science major and English minor Luke Smith is working with Pennsylvania’s Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs (DDAP) during a 15-week internship sponsored by the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE).
Smith’s internship is part of The Harrisburg Internship Semester (THIS). He is one of nine PASSHE students from select universities are given the opportunity to work at the state government level and earn a full semester’s worth of credits.
Participants will attend academic seminars during the semester and will complete an individualized research project.
Smith is being moved around the department’s three bureaus. The first bureau is the Bureau of Administration and Program Support. It involves fiscal management, clerical and administration services and data collection and analysis.
The second bureau is the Bureau of Quality Assurance for Prevention and Treatment. This bureau ensures that drug and alcohol programs throughout the state are operating according to protocol.
The third bureau is the Bureau of Treatment, Prevention, and Intervention. It works with county authorities by giving them tools to prevent, treat and intervene in alcohol, drug or gambling addictions.
Smith will work in all of the bureaus, but he is currently helping with policy work and research.
“I am working on a PowerPoint for DDAP Secretary Jen Smith about other commonly abused substances in Pennsylvania besides opioids,” Smith said. “I am also beginning a research project on telemedicine, which is a fairly new phenomenon in the medical field where doctors and other healthcare service providers are utilizing things like webcams to have appointments with patients anywhere around the world. I am looking into the pros and cons of the system.”
Smith learned about the internship from his adviser, political science professor Sara Grove. He did not realize how important THIS was until he found out several Capitol employees were former THIS interns.
Originally, Smith got into the program to decide what to do after his undergraduate studies — whether he wanted to go to graduate school or join the workforce. THIS is giving him an opportunity to try a state job while still in college.
“The more time I spend there and the more stories I hear about people’s struggles with addiction, the more I want to use my position at DDAP to do something that helps someone. We have a lot of money from the federal government to deal with the problem, and I find it inspiring how much support our mission gets from the community,” Smith said.
THIS program began in 1989 and more than 600 students in the state system have participated so far. These students work with state agencies, offices of the governor, the speaker of the House of Representatives and the attorney general.