LEXINGTON, Ky. – Congressman Andy Barr (KY-06) today applauded the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for awarding an $87 million grant to the University of Kentucky to launch a HEALing Communities Study to help end our nation’s opioid crisis. This program will test an integrated community-based approach to address the opioid crisis with a goal of decreasing opioid overdose deaths by 40 percent in select communities over three years. Specifically, in Kentucky’s Sixth District, the University of Kentucky will partner with Franklin, Bourbon, Fayette, Jessamine, Clark, and Madison counties.

“I have been a strong and consistent advocate for the University of Kentucky’s initiatives to combat the opioid crisis, and I was particularly proud to support their application for the HEALing Communities Study,” said Congressman Barr. “Kentucky has the fifth highest overdose mortality rate in the nation, and it is essential that we continue to secure these resources for the Commonwealth to combat this tragic crisis.” 

“Congressman Andy Barr has always been a stalwart supporter and advocate of the University of Kentucky and its research and health agendas for our region and our state,” said UK President Eli Capilouto. “No one has been more vocal or worked more tirelessly to support our efforts than Andy Barr. He understands deeply the impact that opioid addiction and abuse have on so many Central Kentuckians and their families. Today, because of his support and that of others, a historic investment is being made in this university – the University for Kentucky – and our partnership with the state to turn the tide on this epidemic. We look forward to our continued partnership with Rep. Barr as our efforts, together, offer the potential for help and healing throughout our region.”

As part of HHS’ cross-cutting Department initiatives to address the opioid epidemic, the National Institutes of Health awarded grants to four research sites for the HEALing Communities Study in Kentucky, Ohio, New York and Massachusetts, four of the states hit hardest by the opioid crisis.

Each participating site is partnering with at least 15 communities to measure the impact of integrating evidence-based prevention, treatment and recovery interventions across primary care, behavioral health, justice and other settings in highly affected parts of the country.

This ambitious, multi-year study aims to reduce overdose deaths by 40 percent over three years in selected communities by testing a set of proven prevention and treatment interventions, such as distribution of naloxone to reverse overdose and linking individuals in the criminal justice system with treatment for opioid addiction.  It will be conducted under a cooperative agreement supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institutes of Health, and carried out in partnership with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), which provides support for many of the local prevention, treatment and recovery support services to be studied. The study is part of the NIH HEAL (Helping to End Addiction Long-term) Initiative, a bold, trans-agency effort to speed scientific solutions to stem the national opioid crisis. 

To ensure the program’s efficacy, the study will track communities as they reduce the incidence of opioid use disorder, increase the number of individuals receiving medication-based treatment for opioid use disorder, increase treatment retention beyond six months, provide recovery support services and expand the distribution of naloxone, a medication to reverse opioid overdose.