As part of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar’s cross-cutting Department initiatives to address the opioid epidemic, the National Institutes of Health today selected four research sites for the HEALing Communities Study in four states hard hit by the opioid crisis.
This ambitious study aims to reduce overdose deaths by 40 percent over three years in selected communities by testing a set of proven prevention and treatment interventions, such as distribution of naloxone to reverse overdose and linking individuals in the criminal justice system with treatment for opioid addiction.
More than $350 million will support the multi-year study under a cooperative agreement supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institutes of Health. The study is being carried out in partnership with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), which provides support for many of the local prevention, treatment and recovery support services to be studied.
The study is part of the NIH HEAL (Helping to End Addiction Long-term) Initiative, a bold, trans-agency effort to speed scientific solutions to stem the national opioid crisis.
“The Trump Administration recognizes that the most important work to combat our country’s opioid crisis is happening in local communities, where governments, organizations, families, and individuals are coming together to expand access to prevention, treatment, and recovery services,” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar. “The HEALing Communities Study is an exciting, unprecedented effort to support communities in using and expanding our scientific understanding of effective interventions. It is a major new step in local and national efforts that are beginning to turn the tide on this public health crisis.”
Grant awards were issued to the University of Kentucky, Lexington; Boston Medical Center, Boston; Columbia University, New York City; and Ohio State University, Columbus, respectively. Each 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 in highly affected parts of the country.
RTI International, based in North Carolina, will serve as the study’s coordinating center, and will be responsible for data analysis, health economics research, and widespread dissemination of research findings over the course of the study. Multi-year awards are subject to the availability of funds and program priorities, among other considerations.
“As communities across America continue to suffer from the opioid crisis, a comprehensive approach is needed to help end addiction long-term,” said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. “By testing a suite of evidence-based interventions, not just in health care, but in schools, among first responders, and in the criminal justice system, the HEALing Communities Study will seek to reduce dramatically the number of overdose deaths in those communities, and to create a model for helping communities nationwide.”
The study will track communities as they reduce the incidence of opioid use disorder, increase the number of individuals receiving medication-based treatment for opioid use disorder, increase treatment retention beyond six months, provide recovery support services and expand the distribution of naloxone, a medication to reverse opioid overdose.
“The evidence generated through the HEALing Communities Study will help communities nationwide address the opioid crisis at the local level,” said Nora D. Volkow, M.D., director of NIDA. “By testing and evaluating interventions where they are needed the most, we hope to show how researchers, providers, and communities can come together and finally bring an end to this devastating public health crisis.”