Results of at least partially the efforts of Scioto County Health Commissioner Mike Martin, Portsmouth and Scioto County will be among the so-called “first wave” of communities studied in a new $350 million federal HEALing Communities study, an initiative of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), looking at drug intervention techniques and policies in four states.
In addition to Ohio, other states involved are Kentucky, New York and Massachusetts.
In Ohio, some $66 million will be funneled through The Ohio State University to an initial 12 counties, including Scioto. Other counties to be studied almost immediately include Hamilton, Athens and Cuyahoga County.
Martin said locally the program will include the county and Portsmouth city health departments, along with the ADAMHS Board of Adams, Lawrence and Scioto Counties, whose headquarters is in Portsmouth.
The study launches in December.
Information provided by NIH also talked about the involvement of community health centers, law enforcement, jails and prisons along with individuals and families directly impacted by the opioid epidemic. The study will not be signing people up for opioid addiction treatment.
According to information provided by Martin, 130 Americans die of an overdose of prescription opioids every day. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the overall cost of healthcare, lost productivity, opioid use disorder treatment and criminal justice involvement caused by prescription opioid misuse in the U.S. is close to $79 billion per year.
“What we are doing still clearly is not working as much as we might’ve hoped and prayed for,” Martin said. “We still have way too many people dying unnecessarily.”
Being picked to be among the first communities addressed by the new study is not yet another black eye for Portsmouth and Scioto County, Martin argued, saying among other things, the potential positives far outweigh the negatives.
“This is a problem that we have here, and we need to deal with it,” Martin added.
Again, according to information provided by Martin, study aims to include:
• Reduce opioid overdose deaths by 40%
• Increase the number of people who have naloxone (the generic name for Narcan)
• Expand use of medications for opioid use disorder, such as buprenorphine (brand names include Bunavail, Suboxone, and Zubsolv), methadone, and naltrexone (brand names include ReVia, Depade, and Vivitrol)
• Reduce high-risk opioid prescribing
The overall study is expected to last four years. Research sites will test a community engagement strategy and a set of proven opioid prevention and treatment practices, called evidence-based practices, including:
• Increasing the availability and access of Narcan
• Adding or expanding treatment with medications for opioid use disorder (MOUD) in primary care, addiction treatment programs, and criminal justice settings
• Identifying people at high risk for opioid overdose deaths and connecting them with MOUD treatment providers
• Conducting communication campaigns in each community to support the use of evidence-based practices and reduce the stigma of opioid use disorder and its treatment
Despite some controversy about simply replacing one drug with another, Martin is well known as a strong advocate of MOUD therapy, including the use of Suboxone.
Two key questions the HEALing Communities Study is looking to answer are: How can communities come together and work quickly to start new opioid overdose prevention programs; and, what combination of evidence-based practices will lead to the fastest and most effective ways to reduce opioid overdose deaths?
According to the federal government, even though it may take a few years to understand and put together, the results of this study should provide a road map to help local, state and national decision-makers make the best moves and spend resources in the best way to combat the opioid epidemic.
For more information, go to https://heal.nih.gov/research/research-to-practice/healing-communities
Reach Tom Corrigan at (740) 370-0715. © 2019 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved.