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Opioid addiction study to begin work in Ohio communities

Ohio State-led coalition seeks to reduce overdose deaths by 40% in 19 Ohio counties

As part of a federal research study to dramatically reduce opioid overdose deaths, an Ohio State University-led coalition will begin assisting Ohio counties with prevention, treatment and recovery programs before the end of the year.

The National Institutes of Health today announced when interventions will begin in the communities in Ohio and three other states that are participating in the HEALing Communities Study, which aims to reduce overdose deaths by 40% over three years.

In April, the NIH awarded a $65.9 million grant to The Ohio State University to lead a consortium of academic, state and community partners on the Ohio portion of the study. The study involves 19 counties across Ohio and the state’s RecoveryOhio initiative.

The HEALing Communities Study will determine how best to address the opioid epidemic through prevention, treatment and recovery. To assess the effectiveness of different interventions, the study will compare results between communities. To make these comparisons, participating communities were randomly assigned using a scientific algorithm to start these interventions either in December 2019 (Wave 1) or December 2021 (Wave 2).

Ohio’s HEALing Communities Study team will move forward quickly to help these counties battle the opioid crisis,” said lead investigator Dr. Rebecca Jackson, director of Ohio State’s Center for Clinical and Translational Science and associate dean for clinical research in the College of Medicine. “Communities in both waves will benefit. The first wave will benefit from immediate intervention, and we will apply the lessons learned to deliver the most effective, targeted assistance to the communities in the second wave.”

Throughout the project, all participating communities will continue to get all the other treatment and prevention resources and services that they would otherwise receive. All participating communities are at the leading edge of an unprecedented, life-saving national initiative.

  • The 10 counties in the first wave are: Ashtabula, Athens, Cuyahoga, Darke, Greene, Guernsey, Hamilton, Lucas, Morrow and Scioto.
  • The nine counties in the second wave are: Allen, Brown, Franklin, Huron, Jefferson, Ross, Stark, Williams and Wyandot.

The Ohio consortium brings together experts from six universities — Ohio State, University of Cincinnati, Case Western Reserve University, Ohio University, University of Toledo and Wright State University — and leaders from state agencies and community organizations.

Along with Dr. Jackson, the Ohio portion of the study is led by Theresa Winhusen, professor of psychiatry and behavioral neuroscience at the University of Cincinnati, director of the Addiction Sciences Division and principal investigator of the Ohio Valley Node in the NIDA Clinical Trials Network.

“The HEALing Communities Study is critically important for its potential to address the opioid epidemic, including reducing opioid overdose deaths, through the wide-spread implementation of evidence-based practices,” said Winhusen.

“Only by partnering with communities can we facilitate the processes of getting what works into the hands of those doing the work and supporting those already using these practices to improve the lives of those touched by the opioid epidemic, achieving a long-term solution to addiction,” she said. “If found to be successful, this study could serve as a model for addressing emerging public health crises.”

At Ohio State, more than three dozen faculty members are participating in the initiative. They represent the colleges of Medicine, Pharmacy, Public Health, Public Affairs, Social Work, Nursing, Education and Human Ecology, Engineering, Arts and Sciences, and Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. The Wexner Medical Center, the Center for Clinical and Translational Science, the Translational Data Analytics Institute and Ohio State Extension are also involved in the initiative.

The HEALing Communities Study is funded and supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, part of the National Institutes of Health, in partnership with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

For more information on the study, see https://heal.nih.gov/research/research-to-practice/healing-communities.

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