Campus News

OASAS grant will help treat New Yorkers addicted to opioids


Published September 29, 2017

headshot of Kenneth Leonard
“Thanks to this OASAS initiative, we will be able to address a critical need in our state and help potentially thousands of people who struggle with heroin and prescription opioid addiction.”
Kenneth Leonard, director
Research Institute on Addictions

The Research Institute on Addictions (RIA) and faculty from the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences will lead a UB effort to combat the opioid crisis in New York State.

Through a grant from the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS), RIA will coordinate a state-wide program to train medical professionals in high-need regions in medication-assisted treatment (MAT) of opioid addiction.

“Thanks to this OASAS initiative, we will be able to address a critical need in our state and help potentially thousands of people who struggle with heroin and prescription opioid addiction,” says RIA Director Kenneth Leonard.

University-based clinicians will work with physicians, public health and mental health officers, and addiction treatment centers in seven regions of New York to train health care practitioners in using buprenorphine to treat opioid addiction. Buprenorphine is an FDA-approved medication that helps control cravings and withdrawal symptoms in addicted patients. 

The seven New York regions encompass 16 underserved counties and tribal areas that have been identified by OASAS as having the highest need for assistance because of their high opioid death and hospitalization rates.

The training program is multi-faceted and will consist of focus groups to identify potential physicians, physician assistants and nurse practitioners who are interested and eligible for training; online and in-person training for safely prescribing buprenorphine and monitoring patients in treatment; and ongoing expert tele-mentoring and consultation to assist in the implementation of the treatment program.

“This grant award to the Research Institute on Addictions is great news in our battle against this growing public health crisis,” says state Sen. Chris Jacobs, co-chair of New York State Senate’s Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Addiction. “I have heard from health care professionals and service providers across the state on the need to develop and implement more medically assisted treatment programs, and I look forward to seeing the impact of this work in fighting the heroin and opioid epidemic in New York State.”

In addition to Leonard, other Western New York advisers to the program include Gale Burstein, Erie County commissioner of health and clinical professor of pediatrics in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences; Nancy Nielsen, senior associate dean for health policy in the medical school; and Paul Updike, medical director of chemical dependency services for the Catholic Health System.

Assemblywoman Crystal D. Peoples-Stokes notes the opioid addiction is widespread in Western New York and throughout New York State. “With the faculty and staff’s high level of talent and expertise within RIA and the school of medicine, I have complete faith that they will design an impactful program to help New York’s communities address this epidemic, and I look forward to their findings,” she says.

Nielsen says UB “aims to bring the latest in addiction science, clinical care and education to our region and the state. We are proud the medical school is merging its expertise with RIA to bring medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction to areas in need of this valuable tool that has been shown to help people live healthier, more productive lives.”

Leonard adds that this effort expands on UB’s involvement in the Erie County Opioid Epidemic Task Force, on which he, Burstein, Nielsen and Updike also serve. “UB has been at the forefront in seeking responses to the opioid problem now plaguing our state,” he says.