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Mass. Researchers Receive $89 Million To Combat Opioid Overdose Deaths

Boston Medical Center researchers are among four recipients of federal funding to study the best ways reduce opioid overdose deaths. The goal of the ambitious project is to cut overdose deaths by 40 percent in three years in the participating states and communities.

BMC will receive $89 million in funds from the National Institute on Drug Abuse to tailor addiction programs to the needs of individual communities.

"The awards we're announcing are historic," said U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. "We believe this effort will show that a dramatic decrease in overdose deaths is possible, and we don't have to be intimidated by the scale of this challenge."

Azar announced a total of $350 million for researchers who will look at the coalitions that have been formed in communities to fight the opioid epidemic and help design national models to reduce overdose deaths.

In Massachusetts, the research will be led by Dr. Jeffrey Samet, chief of General Internal Medicine at Boston Medical Center. He says he'll look at 16 hard-hit Massachusetts communities and design treatment around the needs of those municipalities. Those communities are: North Adams, Brockton, Gloucester, Holyoke, Lawrence, Lowell, Pittsfield, Plymouth, Salem, Springfield, Weymouth and clusters of communities in Barnstable, Bristol, Franklin, Hampshire and Middlesex counties.

"We'd like to help people come to understand that opioid use disorder and the deaths associated with it can be treated, and that people who get treatment and get in recovery regain their life," Samet said.

Much of the effort will focus on treatment provided in physicians' offices and programs that complement it, as well as prevention and intervention programs in schools and communities.

"This research study is a major step forward," Samet said. " We will take what we learned at Boston Medical Center and across Massachusetts over the past 20 years and work with our partners to bring those initiatives together to make a serious dent in the overdose death rate."

The other three research teams receiving the federal funding are from Columbia University in New York, the University of Kentucky and Ohio University. They were chosen from among a dozen applicants for the initiative known as HEAL, or Helping to End Addiction Long Term.

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Deborah Becker Twitter Host/Reporter
Deborah Becker is a senior correspondent and host at WBUR. Her reporting focuses on mental health, criminal justice and education.

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