Professors receive $1 million grant to combat opioid overdose


Mercer University School of Medicine (MUSM) professors Dr. Bryant Smalley and Dr. Jacob Warren received a $1,000,000 grant from the federal Health Resources and Services Administration for a comprehensive prevention, treatment and recovery initiative to combat opioid overdose in a four-county region of rural North Georgia.

The grant builds upon prior work that established the North Georgia Opioid Prevention and Education Network (North Georgia OPEN), a multi-sector consortium focused on the prevention of opioid use disorder and opioid overdose in Fannin, Gilmer, Gordon and Polk counties.

The three-year initiative will be led by Dr. Smalley, associate dean for research in the School of Medicine, and Dr. Warren, Rufus Harris Endowed Chair and director of the Center for Rural Health and Health Disparities, a National Institutes of Health Center of Excellence within the School of Medicine.

“North Georgia OPEN is a community-driven initiative in one of the regions of Georgia most impacted by the opioid epidemic,” said Dr. Smalley. “We are honored to work with all of these partners, from the local pharmacy to the judicial system, to collaboratively tackle this issue.”

Over three years, the grant will implement and measure the impact of a multi-phase prevention, treatment and recovery initiative with activities ranging from increasing access to overdose-reversing medication to expanding the substance use disorder workforce in the area. In addition, the initiative will implement a number of awareness campaigns, provider trainings and community events to increase community knowledge about preventing overdose.

“We are grateful to the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy for supporting rural communities in their efforts to implement innovative approaches to reduce opioid overdose,” said Dr. Warren. “Overdose is a complex issue requiring collaboration and partnership across many types of agencies, and North Georgia OPEN will help to make a real difference in our counties.”

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