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RTI International to study opioid prevention and treatment policies in Appalachian states

October 12, 2016

RTI International, in partnership with the University of Kentucky, has been awarded funding from the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the Appalachian Regional Commission to explore how Appalachian states are addressing the opioid crisis in their communities with the intent of developing evidence-based recommendations for improving services and policies.

Opioid overdose is the leading cause of accidental injury in the United States, with the majority of these injuries occurring in Appalachia. To address this growing crisis, NIDA partnered with the Appalachian Regional Commission to support innovative research projects that would lead to sustainable change in the area. RTI was one of four projects funded under this program.

The RTI project, headed by Scott Novak, Ph.D., of RTI and Jennifer Havens, Ph.D., of the University of Kentucky, will study the effects of the 13 Appalachian states' opioid abuse prevention and treatment policies.

"North Carolina is facing an opioid epidemic - more than 1,000 deaths occur each year due to opioid overdose," Novak said. "As researchers who live and work here, we are eager to improve the health and well-being of our neighbors."

The team of multi-disciplinary researchers will work with community members and organizations to analyze existing public health policies focused on opioid abuse, and examine what services are needed. Ultimately these findings will inform practical strategies for clinicians, program staff, and policy makers to improve the delivery of opioid-related programs and services.

Though all Appalachian states will be included in the study, the primary focus will be on North Carolina and Kentucky which have enacted more progressive policies and services than their neighboring states. North Carolina and Kentucky offer naloxone distribution programs for opioid overdose reversal, syringe exchange programs to reduce blood-borne diseases, and Good Samaritan Laws that encourage people to report overdoses without fear of prosecution - all of which are proven methods for reducing harms associated with opioid injection

Through this study, RTI hopes to identify best practices that can be applied to other rural communities throughout the country.
To learn more about RTI's work in opioids, visit

RTI International

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