Patient Care

URMC Awarded $6.7M to Combat Opioid Crisis in Rural Communities

Jan. 13, 2020
The University of Rochester Medical Center has been named one of the three Rural Centers of Excellen

The Department of Psychiatry of the University of Rochester Medical Center has been named one of the three Rural Centers of Excellence on Substance Use Disorder in the country, and awarded a $6.7 million federal grant to identify and adapt evidence-based practices that effectively impact synthetic opioid morbidity and mortality in rural Appalachian communities.

The three-year dissemination program grant, from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, will connect leaders in substance use disorder and rural medicine from the UR Medicine Recovery Center of Excellence with local community leaders and health care providers across 23 counties in New York, Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia.

“This generous award provides a unique opportunity for everyone touched by this crisis to engage with us in identifying and disseminating best practices that work in rural communities,” said addiction medicine expert Gloria J. Baciewicz, M.D., professor of Clinical Psychiatry,URMC Department of Psychiatry, andsenior medical director of URMC’s Strong Recovery program. “Together, we can have a more significant, sustainable impact as we work to defeat the opioid crisis that is ravaging our society.”

Baciewicz serves as co-principal investigator for the project with Michele Lawrence, MBA, MPH, associate vice president of Regional Development for URMC.

“The opioid crisis has ravaged many of these communities, but they are fighting back and emerging stronger,” Lawrence said. “We want to understand the challenges they continue to face, share new evidence-based practices, and shine a light on the good work they have done, so that the health of residents in these counties and other communities improves.”

The center’s efforts also will look for best practices that can combat future substance use epidemics. “Part of our charge involves looking beyond the crisis, at the underlying factors like pain management, economic despair, education and opportunity, which may lay a foundation in which epidemics like this can take hold,” Lawrence said. “We need to think about how to better prevent and respond to those conditions, in order to foster the hope patients, families and communities need to move forward leading healthy, productive lives.”

The UR Medicine Recovery Center of Excellence will focus their work in:


  • the Southern Tier of New York state
  • the southern tip of Ohio
  • the Southern Coalfields region of West Virginia
  • and the Mountain and Kentucky River regions of Kentucky.

While grant funding is dedicated to combating the opioid epidemic in these hard-hit communities, the center welcomes any organization or community who may benefit from the best practices it identifies.

The team has begun reaching out to local health care providers and community leaders, to commence the process of collaboratively finding solutions to the opioid crisis. This spring, it will begin hosting webinars to review evidence-based best practices. Each will be accompanied by supporting material that will enable communities to begin planning and implementation. A website will be available shortly with this information. For now, communications can be sent to

“It is both a tremendous honor and challenge for our department to be chosen to help stem the tide of the opioid epidemic, one of the worst health care crises of our generation,” said Hochang B. Lee, M.D., chair of URMC Psychiatry and theJohn Romano Professor of Psychiatry. “A unique aspect of this award is the focus on disseminating research in a manner that is accessible to providers and leaders on the front lines of this epidemic. We will be doing that through a variety of vehicles such as webinars, podcasts and newsletters that allow people to quickly grasp the concepts and dive into implementation with support from our team.”

This project is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of an award totaling $6.7 million with 0% percentage financed with nongovernmental sources. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement by, HRSA, HHS or the U.S. Government.