School of Nursing Fights Opioid Crisis

Expanding access to medication-assisted treatment in North Carolina. Providing training to drug court officials in Puerto Rico. Helping a Rhode Island grandmother start a support program for grandparents raising their grandchildren as a result of the opioid crisis.

All the above are projects the Collaborative to Advance Health Services has been collaborating on an $8 million sub award from the American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry (AAAP) with a grant funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to combat the opioid crisis. The Collaborative to Advance Health Services, a research group within the UMKC School of Nursing and Health Studies, was a sub-recipient of a grant awarded last February to AAAP.

The grant allows a consortium, led by AAAP and through a partnership with the Collaborative to Advance Health Services, to provide technical assistance in addressing the opioid crisis. The term “technical assistance” refers to a variety of activities, including planning, training, coaching and raising awareness. The goal is to develop sustainable solutions for opioid-related issues within a community.

The Consortium takes requests from all 50 states and 7 U.S territories and their STR grantees as well as organizations and individuals.

“They really are community-oriented and on-the-ground requests, and I think that was a really good strategy to address, maybe, some barriers that communities are facing,” said Dr. Holly Hagle, an assistant research professor and co-director of the Addiction Technology Transfer Center Network Coordinating Office, a project housed at the Collaborative to Advance Health Services .

The Consortium handles a diverse range of requests. These unique needs are met by tailoring strategies to the communities they serve. For example, in New Jersey, it is implementing substance use prevention curricula in 13 private schools in the Orthodox Jewish community.

Even though the grant’s scope is nationwide, its impact is visible at the local level as well. The Collaborative to Advance Health Sciences has provided consultation for different projects in the Kansas City area, including the development of a recovery high school and a model recovery community. It has also received a request from a professor at the UMKC School of Medicine to provide training for students.

Although the State Targeted Response Technical Assistance (STR-TA) grant allows the Consortium to respond in a variety of ways, there is an overall focus on expanding evidence-based practices in the prevention, treatment and recovery, particularly medication-assisted treatment (MAT) of opioid use disorders and behavioral health practices.

“Addressing discrimination and lack of knowledge in communities about what could help people immediately, like [overdose-reversal drug] Naloxone and medication and access to care, is a large part of this initiative,” Hagle said.

Misunderstandings and myths can make it difficult for people with an opioid addiction to get the help they need, but recovery is a goal the Collaborative to Advance Health Services views as being entirely possible.

“They can sustain all their hopes and dreams with proper care and treatment, and we just want to make that accessible,” Hagle said.

By their work, the Collaborative to Advance Health Services is making UMKC a vital part of developing recovery resources in Kansas City and beyond.

“Through this project, we really put UMKC in a central role in the federal government’s effort to respond to the opioid epidemic,” said Laurie Krom, program director for the Collaborative to Advance Health Services.