Last year, national leaders declared America’s opioid epidemic a public health emergency — a designation typically reserved for natural disasters.

Last year, national leaders declared America’s opioid epidemic a public health emergency — a designation typically reserved for natural disasters.

In seeking solutions to the crisis, state and federal agencies have turned to experts within the University of Missouri System, including Holly Hagle, an assistant research professor at the Collaborative to Advance Health Services in the School of Nursing and Health Studies at the University of Missouri-Kansas City; and Rachel Winograd, an associate research professor at University of Missouri-St. Louis’s Missouri Institute of Health. Hagle and Winograd have received a total of $15 million in funding since 2017 to further institutional efforts and research related to the opioid crisis.

“Missouri, like the rest of the country, has been gripped by the opioid crisis, which has destroyed lives and families. I am so proud of the work of our faculty and staff in providing innovative solutions to this crisis,” UM System President Mun Y. Choi said. “Our universities are leading this collaborative project to improve the lives of Missourians, and these grants will support lifesaving research and outreach to battle this national crisis.”

Winograd, an expert in alcohol and drug use who has a doctoral degree in clinical psychology from the University of Missouri-Columbia, was appointed to lead two large state projects related to the crisis. The Missouri Opioid State Targeted Response is a two-year, $20 million project funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and awarded to the Missouri Department of Mental Health. In September, the mental health agencies awarded another large grant to address the opioid crisis in the form of a State Opioid Response grant, providing nearly $37 million in funds for Missouri over two years.

In addition, Hagle and her UMKC colleagues have been collaborating on a sub-award from the American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry on a grant funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to provide training, information and other consultation to combat the opioid crisis.

The opioid grants seek to enhance response efforts by health care providers, community organizations and others across the state and the country in relation to the opioid crisis. The projects focus on integrating better provider care and support to those with an opioid use disorder in the form of enhanced prevention, treatment and recovery support services. Specific strategies range from training on pain management to increasing access to medications for addiction treatment to providing safe and secure housing for people seeking recovery.

“We’re following the lead of states that have been dealing with the heroin epidemic for longer than we have and have deployed more innovative and progressive approaches that really work,” Winograd said. “We’re leveraging those insights and adding novel programs here in the Midwest.”

Hagle noted that UMKC was able to leverage existing funding for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Addiction Technology Transfer Centers to support the national opioid project. UMKC has had funding for the Mid-America ATTC Regional Center — co-directed by Patricia Stilen — since 1993; and the ATTC Network Coordinating Office — led by project director Laurie Krom — since 1998.

“Collectively, the momentum across the University of Missouri System is impressive,” Hagle said. “This effort would not be successful without numerous partner organizations working collaboratively toward a common goal. Our hope is this will positively impact people and communities who are suffering.”

Physicians from the University of Missouri-Columbia are also working on this issue. MU Health Care’s emergency physicians are partnering with the Missouri Hospital Association on a pilot program to provide coordinated care to opioid overdose victims in the emergency room. Called Engaging Patients in Care Coordination, the program provides opioid overdose patients with referrals to health and behavioral health services — including certified peer recovery coaches — to establish immediate connections to medication-assisted therapies, behavioral health care and recovery support services. The program is led by Jonathan Heidt, emergency physician at MU Health Care. The program is supported by funds from the federal State Targeted Response to the Opioid Crisis grant program managed by the Missouri Hospital Association.

For more information about how to connect with opioid use disorder prevention, treatment or recovery services, visit www.missouriopioidstr.org or www.getstr-ta.org. Medical providers interested in training to provide treatment in their practices should visit https://showmeecho.org/clinics/opioid-use-disorder/. To learn more about overdose education and naloxone distribution, visit www.mohopeproject.org .