The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency in October 2017. In the same month, IU Grand Challenge launched the "Responding to the Addiction Crisis" program.
IU Grand Challenges works to use the resources at IU and the satellite campuses to tackle difficult problems from various angles. Officially two years into the program, many of the projects are operational and currently tackling substance use from many angles. When the program was created, its main goals were to innovate treatment options, prepare Indiana's health care workforce and pinpoint the substance use problem.
“The best thing we could do is deploy our efforts toward addressing questions that remain about the health of Hoosiers,” lead investigator Dr. Robin Newhouse said. “So that's exactly what happened, and that's how this Grand Challenge was conceptualized.”
The whole project is supposed to last five years and have three phases, although Newhouse said this may change depending on the findings and successes of the current projects.
IU professors collaborating with IU Grand Challenges are currently working on 31 funded projects relating to addiction.
With the money from IU, Matthew Aalsma, IU School of Medicine professor of pediatrics and psychology, expanded the research he had already been conducting for 15 years.
Aalsma’s project teaches community health staff and case managers in Tippecanoe and Wayne counties how to provide the right care and support for youth at-risk of using drugs.
The team has trained probably 50 people so far, Aalsma said. With this preliminary success and data, he was able to apply for more federal funding and will expand to other counties.
“It’s fantastic IU has committed these dollars to this problem,” he said. “It’s a significant problem for Indiana and it is leading to innovative programs that can be continued.”
Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes or ECHO is another project working to educate primary care providers in rural areas on how to treat Hepatitis C and HIV.
Joan Duwve is an associate professor and associate dean of public health practice at IU-Purdue University Indianapolis Fairbanks School of Public Health. She said once she participated in ECHO in 2015, it became her mission to bring it to Indiana, but it was hard to gain traction.
IU Grand Challenges ultimately provided that traction, she said. Now six ECHO are in use or are soon to be in use to educate providers about the various sides of the issue. The pain management ECHO will launch in November.
On IU-Bloomington’s campus, the School of Education has developed a new degree track because of IU Grand Challenges.
Ellen Vaughan, associate professor in the School of Education, has focused her research and clinical counseling on addiction treatment.
The new addictions counseling track was introduced, and the first class will start soon. The School of Education is also doing research into the best ways to help students who want to recover or are in recovery, Vaughan said.
“What IU really recognizes is this isn’t a problem that can be tackled with one idea or one discipline,” Vaughan said.
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