Opioid treatment and research at center of two UAMS grants

by Talk Business & Politics staff ([email protected]) 570 views 

The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences recently received $3 million from the Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) to compensate facilities across the state providing medication-assisted treatment to opioid use disorder patients.

The money will allow medical providers to offer treatment for opioid use disorder to patients without insurance or the ability to pay for services.

This new effort is an offshoot of the Medication Assisted Treatment Recovery Initiative for Arkansas Rural Communities (MATRIARC) initiative, a partnership between UAMS’ Psychiatric Research Institute and DHS.

The funds will cover expenses including the cost of medication, hiring peer support specialists, providing treatment services and even travel costs for patients using medication-assisted treatment.

“We are really the stewards of the money, our job is to give it away,” said Michael Mancino, M.D., a professor in the UAMS College of Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry who oversees the MATRIARC program. “We are working with clinics already providing medication-assisted treatment to people below the poverty line, so they don’t have to turn anyone away. We look forward to continuing these efforts with previous and new awardees.”

Medication-assisted treatment involves the use of medication to relieve cravings and withdrawal symptoms along with counseling and support to overcome the use of opioids.

The following agencies have been awarded grants to provide office-based medication-assisted treatment for individuals with opioid use disorders: ARISA HEALTH of Springdale; Western Arkansas Counseling and Guidance Center of Fort Smith; Healing Hands Addiction Center of Warren; Ouachita Behavioral Health & Wellness of Hot Springs; Counseling Services of Jacksonville; The Guinn Clinic of El Dorado; Natural State Recovery Centers of Little Rock; Aurora Rehabilitation Clinic of Fayetteville; Compassionate Care Clinic of Searcy; River Valley Medical Wellness of Russellville; A Better You Med Spa of Springdale; Vaught Care Center of Horatio; True Self Recovery of Rogers; and Wellness Clinic and Healthcare Consulting of Camden. Based on the areas covered by the awarded agencies, 57 out of the state’s 75 counties will have access to medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorders.

Medication-assisted treatment includes methadone, which can only be dispensed through an opiate treatment program; products containing buprenorphine, which require a federal waiver for prescribers; and injectable naltrexone, which does not require special qualifications for prescribing. Research has shown that a combination of medication-assisted treatment and behavioral therapy can successfully treat opioid use disorder and help sustain recovery.

Additionally, UAMS has partnered with Hendrix College to provide a program for students in the new Clinical and Translational Research Immersion (CTRI) Program. Translational research is the process of rapidly applying new knowledge and discoveries to deliver treatments or practices that improve health.

The program is supported by a $165,326 grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The partnership with Hendrix will provide students with a team-based translational research experience as part of an ongoing opioid study that involves eight UAMS researchers. The research is part of an ongoing study of neonatal opioid drug withdrawal and will be expanded through the grant and the partnership.

“Translational medicine is the future of therapy, and the CTRI Program will introduce Hendrix students to this cutting-edge field,” said Andres Caro, Ph.D., a professor of chemistry at Hendrix.

The program began in the fall 2020 semester with three students interested in biomedical science careers; three additional students joined this semester, and three more will participate this summer.

“We’re excited to be part of this collaboration,” said Laura James, M.D., director of the institute. “It allows us a unique opportunity to teach the principles of translational research beyond UAMS. This is crucial to expanding the research education pipeline and developing future translational scientists.”