Dr. Hee Yun Lee, UA professor of social work, discusses details of the HRSA project with a consortium member.

Dr. Hee Yun Lee, associate dean for research and Endowed Academic Chair in Social Work (Health) at The University of Alabama, will soon begin addressing opioid-related morbidity and mortality in four Alabama counties by developing a community care network to strengthen prevention, treatment and recovery.

The Health Resources and Services Administration has awarded a UA-led team of researchers and community stakeholders a $200,000 grant to implement an integrative tele-health network.

The network will be used by a multidisciplinary team from UA with health and education community partners in Franklin, Marion, Winston and Walker counties.

Opioid abuse and misuse is a nationwide crisis. The U.S. Department for Health and Human Services estimated in 2017 that 130 people die each day from opioid-related overdoses and that 11.4 million people misused prescription opioids. The opioid crisis is magnified in Alabama, which has the nation’s highest per capita opioid prescription rate and saw 5,128 overdoses from 2006 through 2014.

The project, titled, “Development of an Integrated Care TeleECHO Model for Opioid Prevention, Treatment, and Recovery in Rural Alabama,” will improve prevention, treatment and recovery of substance use disorder and opioid use disorder by focusing on “whole-person care,” a community health concept that coordinates health, behavioral health and social services for more efficient and effective patient outcomes.

“Unfortunately, while there’s a really high risk of opioid-related mortality or morbidity in these counties, there are almost no facilities or programs specifically for opioid problems,” said Dr. Hee Yun Lee, principal investigator and UA professor of social work. “In this grant, we will identify the gaps and urgent needs of services or policies we must establish.”

Read more about Dr. Lee’s work and grant in UA News.