A $1 million grant from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) will allow the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) to create a statewide program that will educate and train health care providers on ways to prevent death from opioid overdoses.
The award funds a five-year project to create and maintain the UAMS Arkansas Naloxone Education Training (ANET) program, a train-the-trainers program that will provide opioid overdose education and training to Arkansas providers, including how to administer naloxone, patient counseling for its use, additional harm reduction resources and local treatment options for those struggling with misuse of opioids.
Naloxone is an opioid antagonist that reverses the effects of an opioid overdose.
Meghan Breckling, Pharm.D., an assistant professor in the College of Pharmacy’s Center for Implementation Research, will serve as the program’s director and primary investigator on the project. In addition to her work with the College of Pharmacy, she is also a clinical research pharmacist with the Center for Addiction Services and Treatment in the UAMS Psychiatric Research Institute.
“Deaths from opioid overdose are increasing in Arkansas, creating an urgent need for access to the lifesaving medication naloxone,” Breckling said. “This program will provide one-to-one training and support to state health care professionals about how to talk with patients and communities about harm-reduction resources available in Arkansas, particularly naloxone. I am excited to have this opportunity to help develop this program aimed to improve and save the lives of fellow Arkansans.”
The program already has a number of committed collaborations statewide, including the Community Pharmacy Enhanced Services Network, East Arkansas Family Health Center, Central Arkansas Harm Reduction Project, College of Pharmacy residency programs and Metropolitan Emergency Medical Services in Pulaski County to help recruit trainers in communities across Arkansas, with plans to add more in the future.
UAMS Health AR ConnectNow and the UAMS Center for Addiction Services and Treatment (CAST) have also committed to supporting the program by providing information and resources for the training curriculum.
“Dr. Breckling is a rising star in championing access to resources and information for health care providers in Arkansas to help prevent and treat opioid overdose,” said Teresa Hudson, Pharm.D., Ph.D., the assistant dean for health services research in the UAMS College of Medicine and a co-investigator on the project.
“We’re proud of Dr. Breckling for introducing this program to help empower our state health care providers with knowledge about naloxone use and help combat the opioid crisis,” said Amit Tiwari, Ph.D., the College of Pharmacy’s associate dean of research and graduate studies. “This project reflects our commitment to fostering a safer community. Gathering numerous organizations for a task of such significance is no small feat. Collective endeavors like these are pivotal in our mission to curb opioid overdose deaths and elevate patient outcomes in the state.”
Trainers will target Arkansas populations likely to benefit from increased knowledge and access to naloxone, including individuals at high risk of opioid overdose. They will also aim to reach those who may be more vulnerable to accidental opioid poisonings, such as adolescents and older adults taking opioids acutely or chronically. Friends and family members of those struggling with misuse of opioids are also within the program’s reach.
The program aims to train 125 naloxone-education trainers over five years. Each trainer will be expected to deliver two community-based naloxone education classes per year, using a 60-minute training module provided by the program.
Trainers will receive materials and naloxone kits to deliver to class participants and will be compensated for their time in providing the training. The program’s goal is for each trainer to train at least 10 or more individuals during each class, which would result in more than 7,500 Arkansans receiving naloxone education training through 2028.