The United Kingdom and Kentucky receive $ 87 million to lead the effort in the fight against the opioid epidemic in the country


LEXINGTON, Ky. (April 18, 2019) – The largest grant ever awarded to the University of Kentucky, to researchers at the UK Center for Drugs and Alcohol Research (CDAR) and on the entire campus – in partnership with the Cabinet from Kentucky for Health and Family Services and the Office of Justice and Public Safety (JPSC) – will lead a project as part of the HEALing Communities Study.

The study, which lasted more than $ 87 million over four years, pursues an ambitious but critically important goal: to reduce by 40% the number of deaths from opioid overdose in 16 counties representing more than one-third of the population of Kentucky.

The last major grant from the university was a $ 25 million grant for mathematics and science education in the Appalachians.

More than 47,000 Americans have died from an opioid overdose in 2017.

Kentucky and the United Kingdom are one of four study sites in the United States selected by the National Institute for Drug Abuse, which is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), for this year. innovative effort.

The study enrolled as part of the NIH HEAL Initiative (initiative to help end drug addiction in the long run), a bold, trans-agency effort to accelerate scientific solutions to stop the national opioid crisis.

The goal is to develop evidence-based solutions to the opioid crisis and offer new hope to individuals, families and communities affected by this devastating crisis. More generally, the idea is to see if solutions in different communities across the state can be replicated and replicated as part of a national approach to challenge.

The award was announced Thursday by US Secretary of Health and Human Services, Alex M. Azar, at a press conference in Washington, DC.

"Kentuckians know better than many the insidious of this disease," said British President Eli Capilouto. "The opioid epidemic makes no distinction by postal code, race, income or other demographic characteristic. This is not a character or a moral fault, but an illness. It's ruthless. It affects us all. We all know someone – a family member, a loved one, a longtime friend or a classmate – whose life has been damaged by this disease. His victims are us. But there is hope. There is us that is why we believe that an aggressive and ambitious change is possible. Indeed, it is essential. That's why we think we can – and must – lead the way. "

Capilouto said the grant reflected a strong partnership between the UK and the state.

"We are extremely grateful for the support we have received from Governor Bevin and his administration," said Capilouto. "Today, we declare with one voice that we can stem this devastating tide. We look forward to continuing our partnership with the Governor, as our combined efforts will provide a better future for the state we serve.

"We are grateful to Leader McConnell, Senators Paul, Barr and Rogers – and our entire federal delegation – for their steadfast support of the UK's efforts to build a better future for Kentucky. Together, our elected officials and the University for Kentucky is committed to stemming the deadly wave of addiction that has cost too many lives in Kentucky. Their support has been and will continue to be crucial to the fulfillment of our promise of hope and healing for the people of the Commonwealth. "

Britt Brockman, chairman of the UK board, said the grant was an investment for Kentucky's future.

"This grant is recognition of the fact that this university – the University of Kentucky – must play a leading role in defining a better future for the Commonwealth that we have served for more than 150 years," he said. said Brockman. "In partnership with the state government, we are committed to the bold – but essential – goal of tackling the opioid epidemic that is destroying lives and ravaging communities. This grant represents hope and promise that we can change that, that we can bring help and healing to our state and to our country. Our university was founded to lead in this way. We look forward, in partnership with our state, to this challenge. "

Consider the dimensions of the problem at the national and Kentucky levels:

  • More than 2 million Americans live with opioid addiction.
  • Life expectancy in this country has dropped – fueled, to a large extent, by overdose drug deaths.
  • Kentucky is currently ranked 5th in the United States for opioid overdose deaths and has suffered from the opioid epidemic since its inception.

Not only are these staggering figures probably underestimated, but they also fail to grasp the extent of the damage caused by the opioid crisis, which affects all areas of family and community life – productivity losses. and economic opportunities for intergenerational and childhood trauma, extreme pressure on community resources, including first responders, emergency rooms, hospitals and treatment centers.

"We are the University of Kentucky, and this grant is a testament to our collective ability to stem a deadly tide," said Capilouto. "The scourge of opioid abuse is an epidemic in our state and in many parts of the world.In partnership with the states and the federal government, we have developed the intellectual talent and infrastructure needed to meet We are grateful to the leadership of Senate Speaker Robert Stivers and the long-term vision of the General Assembly in partnership with the Healthy Kentucky Research Building, which provides us with a state-of-the-art facility to Advancing the discoveries As it is important, with the state we have the reach and partnerships at the grassroots level through our Commonwealth needs to develop and seek community solutions to a widespread and deadly challenge.The time has come to lead. now is the time to act. "

Sharon Walsh, Ph.D., director of the Center for Research on Drugs and Alcohol (CDAR) in the UK, is the chief investigator of the Kentucky study and will lead a team of More than 200 researchers, staff members and partners from the state and community involved in the project.

"The goal is to show a significant change in the overdose mortality rate over a short period of time and to do so in order to be able to reveal which evidence-based interventions are effective in the community," Walsh said. "Will it work? Distributes more naloxone? Does it better educate people about evidence-based treatment? Does it increase access to treatment and reduces? For example, if we pay for transportation so that the treatment program is accessible it will help them stay in treatment We know that people face real barriers to accessing treatment and staying there. We want to remove them because we also know that not following treatment is a risk of death. "

British researchers hope to reduce the number of deaths and addictions by leveraging existing resources and community initiatives to deploy a comprehensive and robust set of evidence-based interventions.

Sixteen counties in Kentucky that are "highly affected communities" have been identified to be included in the randomized study.

They include Fayette, Jessamine, Clark, Kenton, Campbell, Mason, Greenup, Carter, Boyd, Knox, Jefferson, Franklin, Boyle, Madison, Bourbon and Floyd counties.

Overall, these rural and metropolitan counties reported 764 opioid overdose deaths in 2017, two thirds of which were for fentanyl. They also represent about 40% of the total population of the state, which has more than 4 million inhabitants.

The counties involved in the study will be randomized into two distinct waves with theory-based implementation strategies deployed during an initial eight-month phase, followed by a period of time. observation to assess the impact of interventions on OD outcomes.

Researchers will work closely with community coalition partners to ensure a community-centered approach and maximize their engagement. In addition, a comprehensive health communication strategy will be used to reach the public, reduce stigma and increase awareness and access to program interventions.

By implementing "multi-level, multi-target, evidence-based integrated interventions" in the highly affected communities selected in the study, the researchers hypothesized that deaths due to Opioid dependence could be reduced by up to 40%. The study will seek to confirm the hypothesis.

The objectives of the study also include:

  • Improve and expand the treatment of opioid use disorders by increasing the use of drugs in the treatment,
  • Strengthen overdose prevention (OD) by increasing OD training, naloxone distribution, and fentanyl test strip distribution in people at high risk of opioid OD, and
  • Reduce the supply of opioids by decreasing high-risk opioid prescribing and delivery practices through targeted education and enhancing the safe disposal of unused opioids.

The study is conducted in partnership with the SAMHSA (Administration of Addiction and Mental Health Services), which supports many local prevention, treatment and recovery services to study.

"I am so proud that we are able to bring together this group of collaborators who are renowned experts in their field, passionate about this topic and who are also working in the UK," said Walsh. "We have a lot of work ahead of us to implement this grant, launch the project and engage the communities, but I just like to look forward and imagine in about three years now, where we really attended a slowing overdose deaths and may attribute some to the study HEALing Communities ".

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