COLUMBUS, Ohio - Ohio is among four states taking part in an ambitious effort to stem the tide of the opioid crisis.
The state is receiving nearly $70 million in federal funding for The HEALing Communities Study aimed at reducing overdose deaths by 40 percent over three years.
A coalition of universities, led by Ohio State and the University of Cincinnati, will focus on 19 counties hit hardest by the epidemic.
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, says it's a unique, all-hands-on-deck opportunity that will connect the efforts of criminal justice, medical providers, behavioral health systems, faith-based organizations and other community-level stakeholders.
"There's been a tremendous amount of wonderful people who have worked very, very hard in the trenches every day to try to save people's lives in the opioid crisis," she states. "And this really gives us one more set of tools, a greater set of information that's going to benefit all of us."
The National Institutes of Health also chose Kentucky, Massachusetts and New York for the study.
Jackson says the study will examine naloxone distribution to reduce opioid overdose deaths, and test other evidence-based prevention, treatment and recovery interventions.
"Behavioral therapies or peer systems and other things to enhance long-term recovery," she explains. "And supporting housing and education and jobs in order to actually have that long-term success."
The 19 participating Ohio counties run the gamut in terms of location and size, and Jackson says they will serve as a microcosm for the United States.
"We believe lessons learned from these communities in Ohio will not only serve to give us important information so we can stem the tide of the opioid crisis across the other counties in Ohio but, in fact, across the region and nationally," she states.
Prescription opioid overdose deaths were at an eight-year low in Ohio in 2017, which state leaders attribute to stricter prescription guidelines, stronger drug monitoring, and increased enforcement efforts.
However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still ranks Ohio second nationally for drug-overdose mortality.