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RTI to evaluate intervention designed to mitigate harms of adverse childhood experiences, prevent substance use as part of CDC award

Past research shows that exposure to traumatic events in childhood increases the likelihood of future substance use and drug overdose

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — Researchers at RTI International, a nonprofit research institute, will evaluate community-level approaches for mitigating the harms of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) — potentially traumatic events that occur in childhood — and stopping substance use in a new project with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Specifically, the research team will evaluate an intervention that integrates New Jersey’s Strengthening Families Program (SFP) with clinically trained, trauma-informed Family Advocates (FAs), who will assist families in accessing community resources. This novel intervention, which integrates family- and community-level factors, aims to mitigate the harms of ACEs exposure and prevent future ACEs while aiming to address the overdose crisis.

“We will never overcome the opioid crisis by exclusively focusing on preventing overdoses and deaths,” said Phillip Graham, DrPH, director at RTI and a lead on the project. “This study focuses on examining more upstream factors that place individuals at risk for opioid misuse. As such, this novel combination of interventions attempts to address prevention opioid misuse at the community level.”

The study will test (1) whether the intervention increases referrals to community resources, augments positive family functioning and reduces youth and parent substance use and ACEs; and (2) if the integrated intervention produces systems-level change through the alignment of services and resources.

Findings from this study will provide insight into the best ways to help disproportionately affected communities prevent substance use, overdose and ACEs. Early exposure to ACEs increases the likelihood of future substance use and drug overdose. Community-level interventions may moderate the relationship between ACEs and substance use by providing an array of family support services and treatments to reduce disparities, improve reach and increase referrals to services in the community.

Read more about the project

Learn more about RTI’s work to understand, prevent and treat opioid misuse