Ohio awards $6 million to CWRU's CEBP to establish new Center of Excellence to help stem state’s increasing opioid epidemic

Ohio House building

University will train addiction care providers in evidence-based best practices and provide implementation, evaluation support

Ohio had the nation’s fourth-highest rate of unintentional drug-overdose deaths according to most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

To combat the growing addiction crisis, the State of Ohio has awarded a three-year, $6 million grant for a new multi-million-dollar statewide initiative housed at Case Western Reserve University.

The grant, from federal American Rescue Plan Act dollars awarded to Ohio through the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, will create a Substance Use Disorders “Center of Excellence” (SUD COE), in partnership with the university’s Center for Evidence-Based Practices (CEBP), part of the Begun Center for Violence Prevention Research and Education at the Mandel School.

The initiative will support the adoption, implementation and evaluation of evidence-based and best practices and policies related to substance-use disorders, said CEBP Director Ric Kruszynski, who will lead it.

“Most of CEBP’s work will focus on training and helping the state’s vast network of addiction-care providers learn and adopt best practices so they become routine services,” he said. “There is an expansive network of treatment for substance use disorders in Ohio. It’s no secret that many of these organizations experience an array of challenges when it comes to adopting best-known practices. We not only want evidence-based and other best practices everywhere, we want to ensure that the technical assistance necessary for that to occur is available to any Ohio program who can benefit from that.”

In 2020, Ohio had 45.6 unintentional drug overdose deaths per 100,000 residents, according to the CDC. That same year, 86% of overdose deaths involved opioids, and 81% included fentanyl or fentanyl analogs, according to the Ohio Department of Health.

“Every community has been impacted by the disease of addiction. Under Governor DeWine and his RecoveryOhio Initiative, we are focused every day on making treatment available to all Ohioans in need,” said Aimee Shadwick, director of Gov. Mike DeWine’s RecoveryOhio initiative. “The treatment that is delivered in all our communities should be high-quality treatment based on evidence-based practices. The Substance Use Center of Excellence will help our treatment providers continue to transform their addiction care and help people along their treatment and recovery journey.”

Lori Criss, director of the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, said the center will also bolster efforts to improve the state’s network of care. That network includes 50 alcohol, drug addiction and mental-health boards, six regional psychiatric hospitals and more than 2,300 community-based mental-health and addiction-prevention, treatment and recovery agencies.

“Under Ohio Governor Mike DeWine’s leadership, we are committed to making substance use disorder prevention, treatment and recovery support services more visible, accessible and effective,” said Director Criss. “At the same time, we are focused on growing Ohio’s behavioral health workforce to meet the increasing demand for services and equipping them with the skills and tools needed to help every Ohioan find a pathway to recovery and optimal wellness. I’m confident this new partnership with Case Western Reserve University will help us achieve both objectives and better meet the needs of Ohioans impacted by substance use disorders.”

Dean Dexter Voisin said the new center fits the school’s mission to improve society and, more specifically, addresses a major need within Ohio.

“The Mandel School was founded on the belief that a university-based school of social work should transform the work of people and organizations to achieve to their full potential,” he said. “This Center of Excellence reaffirms our commitment to the community."

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