Indiana University has unveiled Responding to the Addictions Crisis, a $50 million initiative to prevent and reduce drug addictions within the state.
The project will team faculty from the university’s seven campuses with business, not-for-profit and government partners, who will focus on five key areas: data collection and analysis, training and education, policy analysis and development, addictions science, and community and workforce development.
“It is comprehensive in that we are using an approach that involves not only targeting interventions to help individuals, but also communities and groups, as well as partnerships and organizations,” says Indiana University School of Nursing Dean Robin Newhouse, who is leading the team of interdisciplinary researchers. “We should be able to leverage different points to reduce the number of substance use disorders in the state, to decrease deaths from opioid overdose and to decrease the number of babies born with neonatal abstinence syndrome.”
Responding to the Addictions Crisis is part of the university’s bicentennial Grand Challenges Program, and the school notes in a release that the $50 million funding the project will come from repurposed existing university funds. It is the third Grand Challenges project. It follows the Precision Health Initiative to cure at least one cancer and one childhood disease, as well as find ways to prevent one chronic illness and one neurodegenerative disease, by 2020, and Prepared for Environmental Change, announced in May, to help Indiana better prepare for the challenges of environmental change.
Speaking with Addiction Professional, Newhouse outlined what researchers working on Responding to the Addictions Crisis hope to achieve in each of the project’s five core areas:
Data collection and analysis. Newhouse notes the lack of a common data model has plagued collaboration efforts between communities in the state. “Having a common data model will undergird our ability to tell if we’re moving the dot here, and if/how we’re able to achieve our goals, as well as geographic distribution of some of the things we’d like to measure. That is absolutely foundational,” she says.
Training and education. The project will be geared toward training those on the front line—psychiatrists, counselors, psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners, psychiatric mental health clinical nurse specialists, social workers, psychologists, physician assistants and others. “We’re going to first address that capacity and train our workforce to make sure they have the evidence-based tools to address and help people with addictions,” Newhouse says. “We’re going to entertain new certification programs that will provide additional addictions counselors.”
Policy analysis and development. Newhouse says IU researchers have received questions from counties across the state regarding best policy approaches. “We have decision-makers at healthcare systems thinking about how to implement policies and which policies they should implement,” she says. “We also have good capacity to respond to some policy analysis so we can do some predictive modeling and help to understand the policy options and how those policy options might be used to address addictions locally and throughout the state.”
Addictions science. Newhouse and her team are dividing this area into two categories: basic and applied science, all of which will be conducted for the purpose of creating interventions, approaches and clinical treatment solutions that reduce addictions.
Community and workforce development. IU researchers will study workforce distribution in the field and identify areas in need of development, Newhouse says.
Work in the first phase of Responding to the Addictions Crisis will center on “shovel-ready” projects that leverage current, ongoing work in the state, Newhouse says.