New York


State Snapshot

New Yorkers impacted by the opioid overdose epidemic live in rural, suburban, and urban counties that lack resources, service integration, and access to data that could help them turn the tide on the crisis. Columbia University is working hard to bring attention and innovation to these highly affected communities to reverse the alarming increase in opioid overdose deaths they have seen in recent years.

The HEALing Communities Study (HCS) in New York is combining a scientific approach with community-driven strategies to find the best solutions to curb the opioid overdose epidemic. Residents, local organizations, and government agencies in our communities are joining forces with researchers from multiple disciplines to collectively deploy a range of evidence-based interventions that will reduce overdoses and overdose deaths.

“It’s not the researchers bringing their approaches and solutions to the community, but it’s about working together with the community to reduce opioid overdose deaths. That’s what people love about the HEALing Communities Study – it's about collective vision, a collective agenda, and collective impact.”

Dr. Nabila El-Bassel,
Director, Social Intervention Group,
Columbia University

In 2016, there were more than 11,000 emergency department visits for opioid overdoses among New York residents. The visit rates were significantly higher among males, young adults aged 18 to 24, Caucasians, and residents living outside of New York City. 11. New York State Department of Health. (2018). Opioid annual data report 2018. Retrieved from here.

The rate of opioid overdose deaths in New York State nearly tripled between 2010 and 2017. 1,21. New York State Department of Health. (2018). Opioid annual data report 2018. Retrieved from here.
2. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019). New York opioid summary. Opioid-involved overdose deaths. Retrieved from here.

Hope in HEALing

Our Grant

The HCS will test the impact of the Communities That HEAL (CTH) intervention on opioid overdose deaths and associated outcomes within 16 highly affected communities in New York.

CTH is a community-engaged intervention that provides a comprehensive, data-driven community response plan. The intervention focuses on scaling up evidence-based practices across multiple sectors and includes a collaboration with key community stakeholders, including, but not limited to, County Health and Mental Health commissioners, local law enforcement, people and family members with lived experience, healthcare providers, emergency departments, homeless assistance providers, youth-serving organizations, and elected officials.

CTH aims to

  • Expand navigation services to connect people to care in emergency departments, jails, homeless shelters, and other “hot spot” community settings and to link people at risk of opioid overdose to healthcare settings that provide medication for opioid use disorder;
  • Increase overdose education and the distribution of naloxone, a drug that reverses opioid overdose;
  • Reduce drug-related stigma in communities; and
  • Create systems for tracking opioid use and available services.

What We Hope to Learn

Our multidisciplinary team of scientists will collaborate with community-based coalitions and other key stakeholders in the 16 selected counties to deploy evidence-based practices that have the greatest impact on reducing opioid overdose deaths and associated outcomes. Together, we will learn what factors promote or impede desired outcomes, how to include community champions and policymakers in the research process, and how existing datasets can be leveraged and used to improve the response of communities to the opioid overdose epidemic.

Our Communities in the HEALing Communities Study

Map of Healing Communities in New York

Wave One



Erie (Buffalo)




Suffolk (Brookhaven)


Study Contact

Principal Investigator

Nabila El-Bassel, PhD

HEALing Communities Study

University Professor; Director, Social Intervention Group

Columbia University School of Social Work

Senior Project Director

James David, MS

HEALing Communities Study

Social Intervention Group

Columbia University School of Social Work
A street with houses and shops