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Columbia University Awarded $86 Million Grant to Reduce Opioid Deaths


Columbia University has been awarded $86 million from the National Institutes of Health to conduct research on ways to reduce opioid-related deaths across New York state.

The multi-year grant, given by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) as part of its Helping to End Addiction Long-term (HEAL) Initiative to Columbia’s School of Social Work, will speed up finding scientific solutions to stem the national opioid crisis.

The federal grant, considered one of the largest that Columbia has ever received, will bring together various departments including psychiatry, the Mailman School of Public Health and the Data Science Institute. Researchers from various colleges such as Weill Cornell Medical College, New York University School of Medicine, Yale School of Medicine, Albert Einstein School of Medicine, University of Miami, and City University of New York will come together as well.

“The opioid epidemic is a national crisis that is causing devastation throughout society,” Lee C. Bollinger, Columbia University president, said.

The funding was secured by Nabila El-Bassel, a professor at Columbia and the Willma and Albert Musher Professor of Social Work, and her colleagues based on the community-focused public health interventions they conduct.


“We are planning a rapid public health response to the current opioid epidemic in New York State, focusing on policy and system changes by working with the criminal justice system, health care organizations, emergency rooms, schools, and drug treatment programs,” El-Bassel said.

The team of researchers will initially begin working in 15 pre-selected New York counties that have been heavily affected by the opioid crisis. In collaboration with county health commissioners, the project will be driven by robust community engagement and real-time learning rooted in data and systems science.

“The opioid epidemic has heart-wrenching consequences for families throughout the United States, and I am proud that the Columbia School of Social Work will make a significant contribution to reducing this plague in New York,” Irwin Garfinkel, interim dean of the Columbia School of Social Work, said.

The team of researchers, led by El-Bassel, has brought together the New York State Office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services, the New York State Department of Health, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and 15 other state and local health or mental health commissioners to end the opioid use in the state.

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