For two years, Dr. April Young of the University of Kentucky College of Public Health and Dr. Hannah Cooper of Emory University Rollins School of Public Health, along with their team, have been in Eastern Kentucky working with community members to assess and gather information on substance use in rural communities for the project “Kentucky Communities and Researchers Engaging to Halt the Opioid Epidemic”, or CARE2HOPE.
With an initial $1.16 million in funding from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the team conducted interviews and surveys with the community, collecting information on resources and factors that impact access to treatment for opioid use disorder as well as risks for related harms, such as overdose, hepatitis C and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
The input they received from community stakeholders and advisory boards composed of elected officials, health department staff, pastors, treatment providers, people in recovery, people who were actively using drugs, and people from many other walks of life – yielded some surprising information that Young says will need to be addressed in order to reduce harms from opioid use. For example, roughly one-third of participants indicated they had experienced homelessness in the past six months.
But the assessment also revealed a lot of positives, Dr. Young says. Many Kentucky communities have local expertise and ongoing activities to mobilize people around substance use that researchers will be able to leverage, rather than creating something from the ground up.
Now with an additional $4.2 million from NIDA to continue their work, the team will take what they’ve learned from out in the field and focus the next three years on developing comprehensive approaches to prevent and treat consequences of opioid injection. The new grant brings CARE2HOPE’s total funding to over $5.5 million.Friday Letter Submission, Publish on October 18