Game-changing grant awarded to UK, Commonwealth
Governor Matt Bevin and University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto on Thursday joined U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex M. Azar in Washington D.C. to announce a pivotal grant award to combat the opioid epidemic.
Researchers from the University of Kentucky’s Center on Drug and Alcohol Research (CDAR), in partnership with the Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS) and the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet (JPSC), will lead the Kentucky CAN HEAL (Communities and Networks Helping End Addiction Long-term) project. This four-year study comes with more than $87 million in funding and has a profoundly important goal: reducing opioid overdose deaths by 40 percent in 16 counties that represent more than one-third of Kentucky’s population.
“The opioid epidemic is one of the most perilous and persistent challenges impacting our state and nation,” said Gov. Bevin. “Kentucky is grateful to Secretary Azar and HHS for this historic grant allocation, and we look forward to collaborating closely with the University of Kentucky to implement this vital work. We are confident that this transformative project will be a pivotal weapon in our ongoing battle against the opioid scourge and will ultimately help to save lives in communities across the Commonwealth.”
The goal is to develop evidence-based solutions to the opioid crisis and offer new hope for individuals, families and communities affected by this devastating crisis. More broadly, the idea is to see if solutions in different communities across the state can be scaled up and replicated as part of a national approach to the challenge.
“This grant is a game-changer in many ways, providing the resources to mount an all-fronts attack across multiple disciplines to save lives,” said Justice and Public Safety Cabinet Secretary John Tilley. “For far too long, the opioid crisis has been an extreme burden on law enforcement and the criminal justice system. However, we now have a tremendous opportunity to strengthen our public health response, yielding important dividends to public safety while also easing the strain on police, courts and corrections systems.”
UK President Capilouto said the grant is a testament to the university’s strong partnership with the state as well the strong support of the federal delegation to help make these funds available. Capilouto thanked the governor and his administration for their support and cited the partnership as a declaration that the “devastating tide” of substance misuse can be stemmed.
Sixteen counties will be included in the randomized CAN HEAL study. They include Fayette, Jessamine, Clark, Kenton, Campbell, Mason, Greenup, Carter, Boyd, Knox, Jefferson, Franklin, Boyle, Madison, Bourbon and Floyd counties.
Researchers will work closely with community-coalition partners to ensure a community-centered approach and to maximize local engagement. A comprehensive health communication strategy will be used to reach the public, reduce stigma and increase awareness of - and access to – interventions made available through the program.
“Kentucky has long been a national leader in drug policy by piloting innovations to increase the effectiveness and availability of treatment, pioneering first-of-its-kind programs and partnering criminal justice with public health,” added Tilley.
The Justice Cabinet houses the Office of Drug Control Policy (ODCP).
Sharon Walsh, Ph.D., director of UK's Center on Drug and Alcohol Research (CDAR), is the principal investigator (PI) of the study and will lead a team of more than 200 researchers, staff, and state and community partners involved in the project.
The NIH's HEAL Initiative (Helping to End Addiction Long-Term) was launched in April 2018 and aims to speed scientific solutions to stem the national opioid public health crisis. Kentucky and UK represent one of only four study sites across the United States selected by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for this groundbreaking effort.