Kentucky is ground zero of the opioid overdose epidemic. Since the 1990s, Kentuckians have been devastated by this unrelenting crisis, and they have persevered in their continued efforts to save lives.
The University of Kentucky has been conducting research to fight the epidemic from its early days. We’ve been very successful doing experiments, collecting data, and demonstrating what’s effective for treating opioid use disorder. But we haven’t been able to fully deploy that knowledge.
Thanks to the HEALing Communities Study, we can embrace this historic opportunity to bring multiple stakeholders together to implement and study proven solutions to the opioid overdose epidemic.
Opioid use disorder lacks a consistent approach to prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and long-term recovery that truly supports patients and their families. Working collaboratively through resources afforded by this study, we’ll use our collective heart and energies to deploy tailored, proven solutions that meet each community’s needs in a way that breaks down existing silos and bridges the gaps in care.
"We have been called, in collaboration with federal and state partners and leaders, to turn the tide.... At the University of Kentucky, we ask ourselves, what is possible? When smart, determined, good-hearted people hear the trumpet sound and link arms in common cause, healing is possible. A saved life is possible. Restored dignity is possible. A renewed family is possible. A rebuilt future is possible."
University of Kentucky
Kentucky has one of highest rates of opioid overdose deaths in the nation. 11. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2019). Opioid overdose. Drug overdose deaths. Retrieved from here.
9 in 10 Kentuckians suffering from substance misuse or a substance use disorder—including opioid use disorder—go untreated. 22. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Data Archive (SAMHDA). National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Retrieved from here.
Hope in HEALing
The University of Kentucky will continue its work leading the nation in identifying solutions to reducing opioid overdose deaths. We want to leverage our scientists’ knowledge, resources provided by the federal government, and the strength of our communities to combat this epidemic. Working together, we know we can change practices, the culture, and the stigma that lead to continued opioid overdose deaths every day.
What We Hope to Learn
Opioid use disorder is complicated and involves multiple health, psychiatric, and social issues. However, addressing all these issues may be beyond the normal scope of practice for a primary care physician. Also, needed services may be delivered in different settings, and there is little linkage between different service providers. This can lead to confusion and difficulty finding needed care. Also, stigma is widespread against individuals who use opioids, the treatments for opioid use disorder, and even the healthcare providers who treat the disorder.
With this study, we have a game-changing opportunity. We see increasing access to and uptake of treatment services and expanded naloxone distribution as critical links in healing communities in Kentucky and throughout the nation.
As we work together to implement an integrated set of evidence-based practices, we want to better understand what’s needed and what’s missing in each community, across different settings. What we learn will help us know where to focus and ramp up efforts to best support patients and their families in order to save lives.
Sharon Walsh, PhD
HEALing Communities Study
Professor of Behavioral Science, Psychiatry
Director, Center on Drug and Alcohol Research
University of Kentuckysharon.firstname.lastname@example.org
HEALing Communities Study
University of KentuckyJennifer.email@example.com