The Integrative Management of Chronic Pain and Opioid Use Disorder for Whole Recovery-Yale and Organizations United (IMPOWR-YOU) Research Center, launched at Yale School of Medicine nearly one year ago with a transformative $11.8 million grant through the NIH Helping End Addiction Long-term (HEAL) initiative, is seeking to advance integrated treatments for individuals who experience the overlap of chronic pain and opioid use disorder (OUD) or opioid misuse. Central to this mission is the engagement of people with lived experience of chronic pain and OUD/opioid misuse, alongside their caregivers, in the design, implementation, and dissemination of the Center’s research. “Amplifying the voices of people with lived experience increases the chances that their unique needs can be better addressed by clinicians and researchers,” shares Declan Barry, PhD, IMPOWR-YOU Center Co-Principal Investigator.
With this in mind, a number of organizations representing people with lived experience of chronic pain, OUD or opioid misuse form part of the Center’s organizational structure. It is one part of a broader Partner Engagement Core facilitated by Robert Kerns, PhD, Ryan McNeil, PhD, and Melissa Weimer, DO, MCR, and tasked with advising on research priorities, ethics, methods, analysis, and dissemination. The Partner Engagement Core has been developed with the support of such partners as the American Chronic Pain Association, Chronic Pain Research Alliance, Medication Assisted Recovery Services and the National Alliance for Medication Assisted Recovery, and the National Urban Survivors Union. In addition, a Veteran Engagement Panel brings to the Core the unique perspectives of patients treated for chronic pain and OUD/opioid misuse at the Veterans Health Administration. Says Dr. Kerns, “there is rapidly growing awareness and supportive evidence that clinical research can benefit from engagement of people with lived experience […] Partners can play key roles in identification of significant scientific knowledge and practice gaps and development of key research questions to address these gaps.”
Joining people with lived experience in the Partner Engagement Core are additional organizations representing Health Services and Health Systems, and Community and Professional Groups. The former aims to foster bi-directional exchange with health services and health systems partners to advise on implementation strategies and barriers as well as systems, policy, and practice implications of the Center’s research findings. The latter brings to the table an interdisciplinary collective of regional and national entities engaged in activities relevant to chronic pain, opioid use disorder and opioid misuse, to advise on barriers to and facilitators of research dissemination and integration into education and practice.
As the new Center stretches its legs, conduct of anchoring research, PAIN CHAMP, led by William Becker, MD, and Anne Black, PhD, and SC-POWR, led by Dr. Barry, is well underway. Both studies were developed and refined in collaboration with the Partner Engagement Core, which will continue to advise as participant recruitment begins. In addition, an initial pilot project evaluating proactive opioid stewardship in patients hospitalized with chronic pain, OUD, and/or opioid misuse is underway under the direction of Dr. Weimer. On September 8th, the Center awarded its next round of pilot funding to Joao P. De Aquino, MD, whose project will evaluate pain sensitivity and synaptic nerve density among people initiating treatment for chronic pain and OUD.