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New federally supported research center will stimulate opioid-fighting approaches

August 24, 2018
by Gary A. Enos, Editor
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Rhode Island has gained national attention for numerous efforts in combating opioid overdose and addiction, including major inroads in medication-assisted treatment (MAT) in its corrections system. Now the state will house a biomedical research center that will seek to identify opioid-fighting strategies with potentially national impact.

Rhode Island Hospital will house the Center of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) on Opioids and Overdose, with an initial five-year, $11.8 million grant from the National Institutes of Health's (NIH's) National Institute of General Medical Sciences. The center, which also will involve other health care institutions in the state, will be co-directed by Rhode Island Hospital infectious disease physician Josiah Rich, MD. He tells Addiction Professional that an overall goal of this initiative will be to identify “multidisciplinary approaches to this problem,” involving care providers, researchers, law enforcement and other stakeholders.

“We need everyone to pull together to figure out solutions to this,” says Rich, who also directs the Center for Prisoner Health and Human Rights at The Miriam Hospital. He points out that while Rhode Island's growth in opioid overdose deaths has slowed, the numbers are not yet declining.

Initial projects

Two of the three initial projects to be conducted under the center's auspices could serve to illustrate a great deal about effective treatments for special populations.

Sara Becker of the Brown University School of Public Health will lead a study examining the use of contingency management (incentive) strategies in combination with MAT in the treatment of adolescents with opioid use disorders. The research will explore how to keep young patients engaged in treatment in order to maximize the effectiveness of medication.

Adam Czynski, who specializes in neonatal medicine at Women and Infants Hospital, will explore efforts to address neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), examining strategies targeting mothers and their infants before and after birth.

The third project, focused on emergency medical services, will look at more effective and less risky treatments for acute musculoskeletal pain associated with motor vehicle accidents.

The center's of excellence's activity is designed to provide junior researchers with mentorship from more experienced investigators, including help with data analysis. A goal is to have more investigators develop expertise in research on opioid overdose and dependence.

“I'm confident that we will make major contributions to this field,” says Rich.

The magnitude of the opioid crisis needs to give rise to the kind of network of research centers that has developed over the years around combating HIV/AIDS, he says.



The Summits for Clinical Excellence bring together thought leaders on cutting-edge topics in multi-day national and regional conferences. Summits on mindfulness, trauma, process addiction, and shame appeal particularly to private practice behavioral healthcare professionals. Other Summits address the national opioid crisis from a regional perspective and engage a diverse group of stakeholders.

November 8-9, 2018 New England - The Opioid Crisis: Strategies for Treatment and Recovery