Researchers working in the Golden Crescent region will get $1.5 million to improve access to treatment for opioid use disorder.
The federal grants will target two main goals for improving access to care for people with opioid use disorder. First, a $1 million grant will focus on expanding access to treatment options between 2020 and 2023.
The second grant, for $500,000, will focus specifically on pregnant women, mothers, and women who could become pregnant who are at risk of substance use disorder, as well as their children and their families.
The federal grants will continue a years-long process started by researchers based at Texas A&M University Health Science Center along with local providers and survivors of opioid use disorder here in the Crossroads.
Jodie Gary, an assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Nursing and part of the research team, said she and her colleagues had initially expected to focus on how opioids affect children and families. But as their research continued, Gary said, they realized the issue was stretched beyond local families.
“We spent that year gathering a lot of data, speaking to a lot of stakeholders and then building a consortium,” Gary said. “One of the things that we found through working with our consortium and our stakeholders is that we couldn’t just focus on children and families. There are some greater needs.”
One of the most pressing needs is an “extreme shortage of acute treatment facilities,” including clinics that provide medication-assisted treatment. There are just two providers in the entire region that provide medication-assisted treatment, which is considered one of the best options for treating people with opioid use disorder. Using the grant funds, the researchers hope to triple the number of MAT providers, from two to six, by 2023, Gary said.
In all, prescription and illegal opioids have killed more than 430,000 Americans since 2000, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Although prescription pills can kill people, the majority of those who are killed by opioids die after overdosing on illegal substances, like heroin.
Although the dangerous drugs have killed thousands throughout the U.S., thus far they are less prevalent in the Crossroads.
Daniel Barrientos, the director of Billy T. Cattan Recovery Outreach, said addiction to alcohol and methamphetamines were more common diagnoses at Billy T. Cattan than opioids. But opioids are a particularly concerning substance because of how easily they can lead to overdose.
Left untreated, an opioid overdose can easily lead to death, Barrientos said.