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College Leads Federally Funded Initiative’s Core to Reduce Opioid Deaths by 40 Percent

The College of Social Work is pleased to announce its involvement in a new Ohio initiative that aims to reduce opioid overdose deaths by 40 percent in 19 Ohio counties, including nine rural counties, six of which are in Appalachia.

The new initiative, part of the federal HEALing Communities Study, will use real-time research to focus prevention, treatment and recovery programs in the state, which has been hit especially hard by opioid deaths.The study is a $350 million investment by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH); its HEAL (Helping to End Addiction Long-term) initiative is designed to reduce overdose deaths by 40 percent in participating communities.

In total, Ohio will receive $65.9 million federal research grant dollars to address the opioid epidemic and implement interventions, headed by The Ohio State University, and including a consortium of academic, state and community partners.

The college’s Dr. Bridget Freisthler, professor and associate dean for research and faculty development, will lead the initiative’s Community Engagement core, along with the College of Public Health’s Dr. Pamela Salsberry, professor and associate dean for community outreach and engagement. Embedded in their work is the perspective that communities are the experts of their local environment. Freisthler and Salsberry will work with communities to identify and implement evidence-based interventions that will be most likely to reduce opioid overdose deaths given their local context, determine ways to strengthen connections of agencies involved in local coalitions, and work with communities to try and reduce stigma related to addiction and treatment.

“This is a real opportunity for Ohio to reverse the entrenched problem of opioid misuse and overdoses while drawing on the strengths and resources of local communities,” says Freisthler. “By providing counties with the much needed training, technical assistance and funding to implement evidence-based interventions, we hope to bring solutions to the many families affected by this epidemic.”

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For an interview with Freisthler, contact Frankie Jones-Harris, Communications Director, at 614/330-2206 or jones-harris.1@osu.edu.