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RTI International to Coordinate National Study to Reduce Opioid Fatalities

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C.  RTI International (RTI), a non-profit research institute, will serve as the Data Coordinating Center (DCC) for the HEALing Communities Study. Four independent research sites, spanning more than 60 towns and counties in Kentucky, Massachusetts, New York and Ohio, will participate in the study to reduce opioid fatalities by at least 40 percent in three years.

The study is funded in partnership by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institutes of Health, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The study is part of the NIH HEAL (Helping to End Addiction Long-term) Initiative, a bold, trans-agency effort to speed scientific solutions to stem the national opioid crisis. 

The opioid crisis is devastating the United States, with rural states and communities being hit especially hard. Provisional data from 2017 show there were 49,068 opioid-related deaths in the U.S.—an approximate five-fold increase since 2000.

As the DCC, RTI will coordinate and pool data across the HEALing Communities Study to provide desperately needed actionable guidance to curb the death and devastation caused by the opioid crisis.

The study will test the effectiveness of implementing integrated evidence-based interventions in communities that have higher-than-average rates of opioid-related mortality. Each community will work across healthcare, behavioral health, justice and other community-based settings to prevent and treat opioid misuse and opioid use disorder.

“We look forward to working with NIDA, SAMHSA and the research sites to achieve the goal of this study and provide them with rigorous research to combat the epidemic in the most affected communities,” said Rick Williams, PhD, a Principal Scientist at RTI. “We have more than 30 years of experience studying effective drug misuse prevention and treatment. Our team has a deep understanding of the opioid crisis.”

RTI’s team will be co-led by three principal investigators: Dr. Williams (operations, informatics and analytics), Dr. Gary Zarkin (health economics research) and Dr. Kevin Conway (coordination and communication).

NIDA has committed over $350M to this landmark study. RTI’s role as the DCC will leverage the institute’s expertise in coordination and communication, data management, data science and analysis, and health economic research.