UVA to lead university consortium in opioid crisis fight

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- Five universities across Virginia are working together to fight the opioid crisis, attempting to reduce the number of people dying due to opioids.

Source: MGN

The Virginia Higher Education Opioid Consortium, under the leadership of the University of Virginia School of Medicine, is working with the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services as well as local community services boards, or CSBs.

According to a release, the consortium includes George Mason University, Old Dominion University, Virginia State University and Virginia Tech.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse says more than 1,240 people in Virginia died of overdoses involving opioids in 2017, and since 2010, the number of opioid-related deaths has increased nearly five-fold.

The consortium will include experts in various fields, from substance misuse, abuse and addiction to economics.

"Virginia's universities recognize that they have a role to play in helping communities across Virginia to build awareness for, and support prevention and treatment of, substance-use disorders, including opioid addiction," said David Driscoll, PhD, MPH, and assistant dean of research at the UVA School of Medicine. "Given scarce resources, it is imperative that we work together to provide this support in an integrated and proactive manner. Our strategy is intended to bolster the capacity of regional health and mental health systems by supporting the efforts of CSBs to deliver quality community services."

The release says CSBs are responsible for delivering community-based behavioral health services to every city and county in Virginia, and supporting them will help local health agencies and leaders determine the best approaches to prevent, treat and manage opioid-use disorders in their communities.

It adds the consortium will use resources and funding from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to leverage the capabilities and capacities of institutional members to assist CSBs by providing comprehensive services in areas including prevention, treatment, and data collection and analysis.

Representatives from each university will be on the consortium's support committee, which will facilitate the development of proposals in response to requests from CSBs. The boards will then select proposals that best fit their needs.

The whole process and funds will be overseen by administrators from UVA.

The project is being funded by a $2.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

"We see a role for our institutions, working either independently or as part of a team, in supporting state and local partners," added Driscoll about how having the universities working together can leverage more expertise from across the state. "We can provide expertise in data analytics, neuroscience, addiction medicine, economics and comparative effectiveness, workforce development, grant writing, program evaluation, and community engagement, just to name a few."

The grant is for two years, but the researchers hope their efforts will lead to a permanent resource for the Commonwealth and its residents.

Regular meetings will be held to discuss the work and to share lessons learned across the Commonwealth.

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