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Wang and Team Awarded Grant Through NIH HEAL Initiative

October 16, 2019
by Julie Parry

Emily Wang, MD, MAS, associate professor of medicine (general internal medicine) and co-founder of the Transitions Clinic, and team were recently awarded a grant through The Helping to End Addiction Long-term, or the NIH HEAL Initiative.

Wang is the principal investigator on the project, “Transitions Clinic Network Post Incarceration Addiction Treatment, Healthcare, and Social Support (TCN-PATHS study)” with the following colleagues within Yale School of Medicine (YSM): David Fiellin, MD; Lisa Puglisi, MS; and Karen Wang, MD, MHS; within the Section of General Internal Medicine and Luis Marenco, MD, in the Department of Neuroscience.

The National Institutes of Health launched the Helping to End Addiction Long-term Initiative, or NIH HEAL Initiative, in April 2018 to improve prevention and treatment strategies for opioid misuse and addiction and enhance pain management. The NIH HEAL Initiative 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 Transitions Clinic Network (TCN) is a growing consortium of 25 community health centers nationwide dedicated to caring for individuals recently released from correctional facilities by employing individuals with a history of incarceration as community health workers.

“Receiving this grant allows the Transitions Clinic Network the role of enhanced primary care in helping people remain engaged in treatment for opioid use disorder after release from jail. This is core to our daily work as addiction specialists,” said Puglisi. “We know that when incarcerated individuals are allowed to start or continue on medications for opioid addiction, health and overdose outcomes improve. But what is not known is how best to help people maintain engagement with these medications after they are released.”

“The concept of addiction treatment during incarceration is complicated by discrimination and stigma that I am really excited to learn how our primary care program can counteract some of these forces. Primary care has potential to normalize addiction treatment and strip away some of the stigma. I am also particularly interested in the implementation arm of our grant that will study barriers and facilitators to engagement and uses ecological momentary assessment tools to gather some of that information from people real time,” continued Puglisi.

Five faculty within the Department of Internal Medicine won awards as part of the NIH HEAL Initiative, which funded 75 grant awards across 41 states in fiscal year 2019 to apply scientific solutions to reverse the national opioid crisis. Wang’s grant falls under the “Justice Community Opioid Innovation Network” research program within the NIH HEAL Initiative.

“It’s clear that a multi-pronged scientific approach is needed to reduce the risks of opioids, accelerate development of effective non-opioid therapies for pain and provide more flexible and effective options for treating addiction to opioids,” said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., who launched the initiative in early 2018. “This unprecedented investment in the NIH HEAL Initiative demonstrates the commitment to reversing this devastating crisis.”

To learn more, visit the Transitions Clinic.

The Section of General Internal Medicine is one of the eleven academic sections within YSM’s Department of Internal Medicine. To learn more about their work, visit General Internal Medicine.

Submitted by Julie Parry on October 16, 2019