AHRQ Announces Grant Opportunities To Address Opioid Abuse Disorder in Rural Areas

Press Release Date: December 8, 2015

In support of growing Federal efforts to reduce the abuse of opioid drugs, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) announced today a call for research to expand access to evidence-based treatment for opioid abuse disorders in rural areas.

AHRQ is making available up to $12 million to fund as many as four research demonstration projects to support implementation of medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for opioid use disorder in rural primary care practices.  MAT is an evidence-based approach that uses FDA-approved medications combined with psychosocial treatments.

The Agency’s new Funding Opportunity Announcement recognizes that primary health care settings may expand access to MAT in areas that lack access to community-based, specialty treatment centers. AHRQ’s projects will explore and test solutions aimed at overcoming barriers to the use of MAT in rural primary care settings. Known barriers include limited continuing training opportunities for prescribing physicians, negative perceptions about people with substance abuse disorders and negative expectations about the effectiveness of treatment, and lack of social support services in rural communities.

Researchers may examine how online training for physicians, in-office practice coaching, and virtual counselling sessions for patients can overcome these and other barriers.  The projects will also create training resources to expand patients’ access to MAT.

Opioids, or pain medications, are commonly used to manage pain associated with injury, illness, or following surgery. Opioids include both prescription pain medications, such as morphine, codeine, fentanyl, oxycodone and hydrocodone, as well as illegal drugs such as heroin. Opioid users can experience a variety of side effects, including vomiting, severe allergic reactions and overdose.

 Opioids were taken by more than 12 million people for non-medical reasons in 2010, resulting in 425,000 emergency department visits and approximately 17,000 deaths, according to a Federal estimate. Data from AHRQ’s Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project showed the rate of hospitalizations related to opioid overuse among adults increased more than 150 percent between 1993 to 2012. By 2012, there were more than 700,000 total opioid-related hospital stays. Data also show that the annual growth rate in opioid-related hospitalizations was greater for patients in rural areas (8.6 percent) than urban areas (4.9 percent).

“We are pleased to join other agencies in the Department of Health and Human Services to battle this growing national epidemic,” said AHRQ Director Richard Kronick, Ph.D. “Expanding the use of proven treatment interventions in rural, primary care settings will play an important part in our broader national efforts.”

AHRQ anticipates investing up to $4 million for grants in the first year of this initiative and up to $12 million over three years to support up to four awards. Grant applications are due March 4, 2016.

AHRQ’s opioids abuse initiative aligns with ongoing efforts by HHS, which is tackling the opioids crisis in three priority areas: providing training and educational resources to help health care professionals make informed prescribing decisions; increasing the use of naloxone, a drug that can reverse an opioid overdose; and expanding the use of MAT.

AHRQ’s opioids initiative supports the Agency’s mission to produce evidence and improve the quality and safety of health care. In accomplishing its mission, AHRQ engages in three types of activities.  AHRQ invests in research on how to make health care safer and improve quality and access; creates materials to teach and train health care systems and professionals to catalyze improvements in care; and generates measures and data to track and improve performance and evaluate progress of the U.S. health system.

Page last reviewed December 2015
Internet Citation: AHRQ Announces Grant Opportunities To Address Opioid Abuse Disorder in Rural Areas. Content last updated December 2015. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://www.ahrq.gov/news/newsroom/press-releases/2015/opioid-abuse.html