A $550,000 grant to Michigan State University and the University of Maryland will help improve opioid use disorder treatment for uninsured, low-income Black adults by enlisting help from fellow community members who are also in recovery.

The grant by the Foundation for Opioid Response Efforts (FORE) is part of a nationwide initiative to bolster lifesaving treatment for opioid use disorder. African Americans have much lower rates of treatment because of a range of barriers, as documented in a 2020 federal government report. That need has become even more urgent as COVID-19 has created more barriers to care and placed additional people at risk of overdose.

The project is focused on training peer recovery coaches in Detroit and Baltimore to promote retention and adherence to medications. People struggling with opioid use disorder often have a difficult time maintaining a recovery routine, and building social connections and support can bolster their success.

“Peers play a unique role in the recovery process,” said Jessica Magidson, a UMD assistant professor of psychology. “They can help establish trust, reduce stigma and social isolation, which is absolutely crucial, especially right now in the context of COVID-19.”

The program represents a novel approach to engaging and retaining individuals from underserved communities who require treatment for opioid use disorder, said Julia Felton, assistant professor and clinical psychologist at Michigan State.

“This funding supports critical research to develop a sustainable model for training peer recovery coaches to improve outcomes and promote the recovery process among this vulnerable population," she said.
Now more than ever it is important to address racial and ethnic disparities in healthcare and ensure access to care for people who are most at risk, said Dr. Karen A. Scott, president of FORE. The private organization was formed in 2018 to develop sustainable and scalable solutions for the national opioid crisis. An estimated 128 people died every day in 2018 from opioid overdoses, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

“This program is patient-centered, innovative and evidence-based,” she said. “It is also a strong example of an innovative approach for improving health equity in opioid use disorder treatment for populations at high risk of overdose.”

This story was adapted from a release by FORE.