URMC Psychiatry Awarded Additional $2.5M to Combat Opioids in Rural Communities

Jul. 15, 2020

The University of Rochester Medical Center Department of Psychiatry has been awarded an additional $2.5 million to expand the scope of its UR Medicine Recovery Center of Excellence project, bringing total funding from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to $9.17 million.  

The project focuses on assisting rural communities, particularly in Appalachia, with implementing evidence-based practices that reduce the use of and overdose from synthetic opioids. The additional funding will allow for the development and sharing of materials in four areas:

  • Reducing stigma, self-stigma and shame
  • Addressing and preventing opioid-related suicide
  • Improving methadone accessibility in rural opioid treatment programs
  • Providing accessible treatment to patients released from correctional facilities

The center, one of three Rural Centers of Excellence on Substance Use Disorder in the country, provides organizations across the U.S. with the practical tools they need to support program development. These tools have been adapted specifically for rural communities, which face a unique set of challenges in addressing this crisis. The center also provides coaching and technical assistance as organizations work through planning and implementation challenges.

UR Medicine Recovery Center of Excellence

The dissemination program grant from HRSA retains its original three-year timetable and service area of 23 counties in New York, Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia.

“Over the first six months of our work, we confirmed that many Appalachian communities and collaboratives have established successful evidence-based programs that are positively impacting this crisis, said Michele Lawrence, MBA, MPH, assistant vice president of Regional Business Development for URMC and co-principal investigator for the project. “We look forward to highlighting many of those in our webinars over the next two years. However, other communities are still not sure where to begin or how to build on their initial success. This generous increase in funding allows us to expand our breadth of programming and the depth of our technical assistance into areas where we know they are struggling.”

“One area we have heard about from organizations across the U.S. is stigma,” said addiction medicine expert Gloria J. Baciewicz, MD., professor of Clinical Psychiatry, senior medical director of URMC’s Strong Recovery program, and co-principal investigator for the project. “There continues to be a range of values and beliefs embedded in the fabric of our communities that prevent us from fully recognizing persons with substance use disorders among us and engaging the community, families, employers, providers and patients in creating an environment that supports recovery and ultimately improves the overall economic resilience and health of our communities. Together, we can have a more significant, sustainable impact as we work to defeat the opioid crisis that is ravaging our society.”

The center also has seen additional needs emerge as a result of the current pandemic. Treatment programs have had to redesign operations, and the UR Medicine Recovery Center of Excellence has shared its struggles and successes with those challenges. Patients who may have been in recovery for months or years face new difficulties as the social support system they rely on has drastically been altered. The center is pushing out information in July to help patients and providers across the U.S. access life-saving drugs such as naloxone by mail and maintain that social support through new types of communities, all of which can be found on the website.

“Our team has partnered in a unique way with rural Appalachian communities, researchers, clinicians, community based organizations and more,” said Hochang B. Lee, M.D., chair of URMC Psychiatry and the John Romano Professor of Psychiatry. “They are reducing the impact of synthetic opioids by recognizing the power of each of us to contribute to the health of our community.”

This HRSA RCORP RCOE program is supported by the Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA) of the US Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) as part of an award totaling $9.1M with 0% financed with non-governmental 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 US Government.