Columbia University’s School of Social Work has been awarded $86 million from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institutes of Health, to support research intended to reduce opioid deaths across New York State. Columbia University will be partnering with 15 New York counties, including Yates County, that have been heavily affected by the opioid crisis.

Yates County will receive approximately $500,000 over the next four years to implement an evidenced-based Opioid Use Disorder treatment model. The project will be conducted in collaboration with the Yates County Department of Mental Hygiene, the county office responsible for addressing opioid use, and driven by robust community engagement and real-time learning rooted in data and systems science through a County-system Hub & Spoke Empowerment” (CHASE) model.

“These grant funds and the support from Columbia University will strengthen the work within the county to address the needs of those living with addiction and will further support the efforts to combat the opioid crisis,” says George Roets, Yates County Community Mental Health Services Director. 

Roets explains the “hub & spoke” concept with the visual image of a wheel; with his office as the hub, and all the agencies that interact in drug cases, such as police, emergency responders, hospitals, and addiction treatment centers, as the spokes. It is the goal of this model to achieve a 40 percent reduction in opioid deaths.

“The county and community partners have been working tenaciously to combat this issue. While we have seen the number of lives lost decline, there is much more work to be done. This partnership and grant funds will further strengthen our efforts to combat the opioid crisis in Yates County.”

Douglas Paddock, chair of the Yates County Legislature, says, “This substantial grant, along with the continued collaboration amongst the stakeholders participating in the Yates County Substance Abuse Coalition, will allow us to continue to make strides forward in addressing the opioid crisis here in our county.” 

The investigative team from Columbia University’s School of Social Work brought together New York State Office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services, New York State Department of Health, New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and 15 local Mental Health Commissioners/Directors to help investigate solutions to the opioid crisis. The CHASE model is expected to achieve an estimated 40 percent reduction in opioid-related overdose deaths in each selected county.

The first phase of the project is scheduled to begin in the fall.

 Nabila El-Bassel, University Professor and the Willma and Albert Musher Professor of Social Work, and her colleagues—Louisa Gilbert, Elwin Wu and Timothy Hunt—secured this major funding based on their community-focused public health interventions. “We are planning a rapid public health response to the current opioid epidemic in New York State, focusing on policy and system changes by working with the criminal justice system, health care organizations, emergency rooms, schools, and drug treatment programs,” she says.

 “I am delighted to be leading this extraordinarily innovative study with such an outstanding group of scientists,” El-Bassel said. “Our goals are ambitious. We plan to reduce opioid overdose fatalities by at least 40 percent within less than four years in 15 of the most burdened counties in New York State. There is no time to waste; we have lost far too many people to this epidemic.”