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Five Virginia Universities Collaborate to Tackle Opioid Addiction

Five Virginia universities have formed the Virginia Higher Education Opioids Consortium (VHEOC) to address the opioid threats in the state.

During the next two years, the consortium will introduce innovative ways to collect and analyze data and support prevention, treatment and recovery programs through community service boards across Virginia.

The University of Virginia, George Mason University, Virginia Tech, Virginia State University, and Old Dominion University are part of the collaborative, which received a federal grant of up to $2.5 million.

According to the 2017 State of the Commonwealth Report, the total opioid overdose deaths in the state has increased manifold since 2010, potentially reducing gross domestic product by 1.7 percent.

“As fatalities from opioid overdoses are the leading cause of accidental death in Virginia, increasing our understanding of how economic conditions may contribute to and are affected by the opioid crisis is important for the public and policymakers,” said Barbara Blake, Old Dominion representative on the VHEOC Support Committee.

“I believe that our research will provide valuable insight into the economic nature of diseases of despair and the substantial costs on our society.”

Earlier this year, a similar consortium was constituted in Ohio with academics, state and community partners on board to reduce the number of opioid overdose deaths by 40 percent over the next three years.

The group is working to reduce opioid overdose deaths in 19 highly affected counties throughout the state by using data-driven approaches that combine multi-pronged, evidence-based interventions within health care, behavioral health, justice systems, and communities.

Lately, various federal agencies, including social media companies, have involved higher educational institutes to counter the use of opioids. In April, Columbia University received $86 million from the National Institutes of Health to conduct research on ways to reduce opioid-related deaths across New York state.

In 2018, the University of Alabama in Birmingham partnered with a new coalition of Facebook, Google, and Twitter, led by the Center for Safe Internet Pharmacies, to fight the opioid crisis by countering online tactics used to promote and sell drugs.

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