Pittsburgh Gets $7.8M to Enhance Opioid Care

The University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy's Program Evaluation and Research Unit (PERU) has been awarded a substantial five-year, $7.8 million grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

The grant aims to enhance the quality of care provided to patients dealing with opioid use disorder (OUD) throughout Pennsylvania. This initiative will establish the Helping to End Addiction Long-term (HEALing) Measures Center at the University of Pittsburgh. The primary focus of this center will be the development and implementation of measurement-based care in 20 community opioid treatment programs across Pennsylvania. The overarching goal is to improve treatment accessibility, encourage recovery, and reduce fatal overdoses throughout the state.

While opioid overdose deaths in Pennsylvania saw a decrease from 2021 to 2022, OUD and other substance use disorders remain significant public health challenges. Medications such as buprenorphine, methadone, and naltrexone are crucial components of OUD treatment. However, a substantial portion of patients, approximately 20%, discontinue treatment within the first month, with up to 80% discontinuing within the initial six months.

Researchers believe that even a small reduction in medication discontinuation rates could translate into saving thousands of lives. The key challenge lies in ensuring that patients receive appropriate treatment at the right time and that the quality of care is sufficiently high to facilitate stable recovery.

PERU, in collaboration with the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services' Centers of Excellence for Opioid Use Disorder, will expand on an existing partnership to integrate measurement-based care into current treatment practices and workflows. This model, commonly applied in physical and mental health care settings but not previously implemented in opioid treatment programs, involves systematically evaluating patients' symptoms to guide personalized care based on their evolving conditions.

The project will assess implementation effectiveness, cost-effectiveness, and clinical effectiveness, including reductions in patient symptoms and improved treatment retention. These insights will inform strategies to enhance treatment efficiency and effectiveness and provide a blueprint for scaling measurement-based care to additional opioid treatment sites.

The HEALing Measures Center will collaborate with researchers from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and (RTI) International, along with community partners at the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services, the Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs, UPMC, and the Community Care Behavioral Health Organization.

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