Posted on Oct 22, 2020, 1 p.m.
COVID-19 is presenting many challenges as well as learning opportunities, according to a media advisory, an NIH groundbreaking study is testing a comprehensive model intervention to help reduce opioid overdose deaths in hard-hit communities.
This study aims to address gaps in reaching communities that are most heavily affected by the opioid epidemic with proven, evidence-based interventions for opioid use disorder, and the approach is detailed in a report published in a special issue of Drug and Alcohol Dependence which also describes the early impact of COVID-19 on its goals and the potential for uncovering insights at the intersection of the outbreak and the opioid epidemic.
In America an estimated 1.6 million people had opioid use disorder in 2019, of these only 18.1% received treatment for their misuse. To help better address this gap NIH plans to invest over $350 million to support the HEALing Communities Study which is a multi-year multi-site investigation testing the impact of an integrated set of evidence-based practices on reducing opioid-related overdose deaths by 40% in three years in communities that are hard hit by the opioid crisis.
The HEALing Communities Study is the largest of its kind, receiving funding by the NIH Helping to End Addiction Long-term Initiative which is a trans agency effort to speed scientific solutions to help stem the national opioid crisis. Findings from this study will help to establish best practices that are tailored to the needs of local communities for increasing the number of people receiving treatment for OUD, preventing opioid overdose deaths, and reducing high-risk opioid prescribing to create a model to curb the nation’s opioid crisis.
The study will test the impact of a community-based data-driven approach in 67 communities across 4 states to facilitate the implementation of evidence-based practices in a variety of settings including community health centers, correctional institutions, addiction treatment centers, hospitals, and primary care clinics. Testing the impact of engaging local and state governments as well as community groups like schools, faith-based organizations, and police departments is an integral feature of the study design.
Several universities are included as study research sites that will help to track communities as they work to increase the number of people receiving medical treatment for their opioid misuse, increase treatment retention beyond 6 months, provide recovery support services, expand the distribution of naloxone to reverse an overdose, and reduce high risk prescribing.
Based on state and national reports there has been a concerning increase in opioid overdoses and deaths since the onset of the COVID-19 outbreaks, this study can provide a unique opportunity to gain further understanding of the consequence of the intersection of the outbreak and opioid epidemic in rural and urban communities.
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