This week, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar announced the four research sites that will be receiving grants as a part of the HEALing Communities Study, which aims to test the impact of evidence-based interventions on preventing and treating opioid use disorder in key communities across the country.
“It takes a whole community to beat this crisis.”
- Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar
The University of Kentucky, Boston Medical Center, Columbia University, and Ohio State University will be awarded grants to study how an integrated approach to prevention, treatment, and recovery can reduce opioid overdose deaths. The goal of the study is to decrease opioid overdose deaths by 40% over three years. In 2017, over 70,000 people - 192 people a day - died of drug overdoses in the United States. Opioids were involved in 47,600 of those deaths.
Each of the four research teams will partner with 15 or more local communities to measure the impact that a set of evidence-based interventions - including medication-assisted treatment, naloxone distribution, increased treatment retention, and recovery support services - have on opioid use disorder and opioid overdose deaths. Successful interventions will be used as a “blueprint” for other states, explained the Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Dr. Francis S. Collins. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Director Dr. Nora Volkow called the study a change in paradigm. “[W]e’ve never done something as ambitious as this, where we have integrated the effort.”
The $350 million project is a partnership between NIDA and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), and is one of more than 20 projects in NIH’s HEAL Initiative (Helping to End Addiction Long-term). Launched in June 2018, the HEAL Initiative aims to prevent and treat opioid use disorder, and develop safer, non-addictive pain management treatments.