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NIH Grant Funds Study to Connect Peers, Patients to Address Opioid Crisis

A National Institutes of Health grant will fund University of Maryland-led research to examine whether retention rates in opioid use disorder (OUD) recovery programs improve with the involvement of peer recovery coaches: trained individuals who have experience with OUD.

A team of collaborators led by Jessica F. Magidson, an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology, recently received the award as part of the HEAL Initiative, a broad-ranging program to provide scientific solutions to the national opioid overdose crisis.

The crisis is marked and exacerbated by poor access to care—not only medication, but also behavioral treatments that should be delivered alongside medication. Among those who do receive medication for OUD, only about half are still engaged in care after six months. There is an urgent need to improve retention in care and deliver evidence-based behavioral treatments alongside medications for OUD, the researchers said.

The project aims to develop and evaluate an innovative model for improving retention in OUD treatment, with a particular focus on addressing the needs of underserved individuals in Baltimore who are most vulnerable to poor outcomes.

This grant is in close collaboration with Dr. Aaron Greenblatt, a family medicine physician and opioid treatment provider at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, who also serves as medical director of the UMD Drug Treatment Center, where this study will take place. Other Maryland researchers on the project include Melanie Bennett and Annabelle “Mimi” Belcher of the University of Maryland School of Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry, and Eric Wish, director of UMD’s Center for Substance Abuse Research (CESAR).

The grant funds $800,000 for this first phase of the project, running two years. If successful, the team will transition to a second phase, bringing the total to approximately $3.5 million over five years.

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