Four States Picked for $350 Million Study to Prevent, Treat OUD

April 19, 2019

Locations in Ohio, Kentucky, New York, and Massachusetts were selected for an opioid abuse prevention and treatment initiatives as part of a multimillion dollar interagency federal research effort, led by the National Institutes of Health.

Locations in Ohio, Kentucky, New York, and Massachusetts were selected Thursday for opioid abuse prevention and treatment initiatives as part of a multimillion dollar interagency federal research effort, led by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The effort is part of the HEAL initiative (Helping to End Addiction Long-term) Communities Study, which seeks to reduce overdose deaths by 40% over 3 years.

Each research site is partnering with at least 15 communities to measure the impact of integrating evidence-based prevention, treatment, and recovery interventions across primary care, behavioral health, justice, and other settings.

The study aims to provide science-based strategies, including improving treatment strategies for pain and expanding medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for opioid use disorders (OUDs).

The $350 million, multiyear study is being carried out in partnership with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and through a cooperative agreement supported by the NIH’s National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

The project will “create a blueprint for other communities,” said NIH Director Frances Collins, MD, PhD, and results can be shared in real time. It will pull together all of the resources that exist in a community in an integrated model, rather than doing things piecemeal, he said.

Originally, only 3 states were slated to be funded, but Collins said they "stretched the funds a bit" to include a fourth. The research sites are the University of Kentucky, Lexington; Boston Medical Center, Boston; Columbia University, New York City; and Ohio State University, Columbus.

RTI International, a nonprofit based in North Carolina, will act as the study’s coordinating center, and will be responsible for data analysis, health economics research, and dissemination of research findings.

“We look forward to working with NIDA, SAMHSA and the research sites to achieve the goal of this study and provide them with rigorous research to combat the epidemic in the most affected communities,” Rick Williams, PhD, a principal scientist at RTI, said in a statement. “We have more than 30 years of experience studying effective drug misuse prevention and treatment. Our team has a deep understanding of the opioid crisis.”

The study will track communities as they reduce the incidence of OUD, increase the number of individuals receiving MAT, increase treatment retention beyond 6 months, provide recovery support services, and expand the distribution of naloxone, a medication to reverse opioid overdose.

“What we need less of is 28-day detox programs that send people out without a plan,” said Collins.