TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Two University of Alabama faculty members and their teams recently received a combined $3.8 million to fund their work in fighting opioid use disorder, a trend that has plagued the state and nation in recent years.
Dr. Mercy Mumba, assistant professor in the UA Capstone College of Nursing, was awarded more than $2.7 million from the National Institutes of Health’s Helping to End Addiction Long-Term initiative. The five-year project, which is the only one in the state to receive HEAL funding, aims to improve treatments for chronic pain, curb the rates of opioid use disorder and overdose, and achieve long-term recovery from opioid addiction.
“The overall goal of the project is to improve adherence to medication assisted treatment for individuals with opioid use disorder,” said Mumba. “Medication assisted treatment is considered the gold standard for treating opioid use disorder, however, adherence to MAT is a challenge with program retention rates as low as 30-50% in some programs.
“Our intervention has the potential to produce sustained recovery, reduce poly-substance abuse, decrease the rates of fatal overdoses, and improve mental health and other co-morbid psychosocial indices such as depression and anxiety for this vulnerable population.”
Dr. Rebecca Allen, professor in UA’s department of psychology, received more than $1 million through the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Graduate Psychology Education Program to educate and train psychologists to combat opioid use disorder in underserved populations. Allen, who is also part of the team working on Mumba’s project, was also the only recipient of GPE funding in the state.
“Psychology has a great opportunity to play a role in integrated care settings because of the combination of skills psychologists bring to the table,” said Allen. “Not only are psychologists in the realm of mental health professionals who excel in assessing when a person might need opioid use treatment, but we also provide behavioral interventions and treatment.”
The three-year GPE funding will allow UA to train 12 psychologists who will specialize in treating opioid use disorder in rural and underserved communities.
“One of the significant parts of our training program is looking at the intersection of disparities,” said Allen. “This can be a member of an ethnic minority group, rural community, having a low socioeconomic status and so on. All of these aspects make this training grant really meaningful for the state of Alabama.
“UA is well-positioned to meet the primary and mental health care needs of rural Alabamians.”
The University of Alabama, the state’s oldest and largest public institution of higher education, is a student-centered research university that draws the best and brightest to an academic community committed to providing a premier undergraduate and graduate education. UA is dedicated to achieving excellence in scholarship, collaboration and intellectual engagement; providing public outreach and service to the state of Alabama and the nation; and nurturing a campus environment that fosters collegiality, respect and inclusivity.