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Researchers awarded funds to fight opioid crisis

Penn State College of Medicine researchers received 41 grants in February. They’ll use at least two of them totaling nearly $1.3 million to fight Pennsylvania’s opioid epidemic.

Sarah Kawasaki, an assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry and director of addiction services at the Pennsylvania Psychiatric Institute, received $750,000 from Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield to continue funding the Pennsylvania Coordinated Medication-Assisted Treatment (PacMAT) program.

Through PacMAT, primary care practices refer severe opioid-use disorder patients they can’t treat to the Pennsylvania Psychiatric Institute. The institute provides physical, mental health, case management and legal services. Kawasaki’s funding allows PacMAT’s projects and initiatives to continue through the end of 2021 with the goal of expanding access to health care for addiction conditions affecting residents of central Pennsylvania.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse awarded Douglas Leslie, a professor in the Departments of Public Health Sciences and Psychiatry, $549,512 for his study, “Opioid use disorders in adolescents: predictors of treatment and outcomes.” Leslie’s study examines how adolescents with opioid use disorders are treated and whether those treatments are effective.

The research will use several large, national insurance claim and survey databases to compile sociodemographic and clinical information on treatments and outcomes in adolescents with opioid use disorders. Researchers plan to use the data to identify patterns in treatments and whether those treatments reduce the risk of subsequent emergency department, hospital or detox services. Providers, insurers and policymakers can use the results of the study to develop processes and policies for effective treatment.

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