April 19 (UPI) -- The National Institute of Drug Abuse will spend more than $350 million to support local opioid recovery, prevention and treatment in four states around the country, according to a Friday news release from the National Institutes of Health.
The program, which aims to reduce opioid overdose deaths in the four states by 40 percent over the next three years, is a part of the HEAL Initiative, which is designed to curb opioid use in the United States.
"The Trump Administration recognizes that the most important work to combat our country's opioid crisis is happening in local communities, where governments, organizations, families and individuals are coming together to expand access to prevention, treatment and recovery services," said Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.
"The HEALing Communities Study is an exciting, unprecedented effort to support communities in using and expanding our scientific understanding of effective interventions. It is a major new step in local and national efforts that are beginning to turn the tide on this public health crisis," Azar said.
As a part of the study, Boston Medical Center, Columbia University, University of Kentucky and Ohio State University will all receive grant awards. Those organizations will connect with at least 15 communities to see the effects of combining evidence-based prevention, recovery and treatment throughout behavioral health, primary care and other areas.
The researchers will attempt to reduce opioid use disorder in those communities by increasing the availability of naloxone, a drug used to treat opioid overdose. They will also work to boost treatment retention numbers over six months, as well as providing recovery support services in those communities. The researchers will track these efforts throughout the time of the study.
"The evidence generated through the HEALing Communities Study will help communities nationwide address the opioid crisis at the local level," said Nora D. Volkow, director of NIDA. "By testing and evaluating interventions where they are needed the most, we hope to show how researchers, providers and communities can come together and finally bring an end to this devastating public health crisis."