Photo of pills on prescription pad

Case Western Reserve University researchers partnering in statewide consortium to address Ohio’s opioid epidemic

$65.9 million federal grant supports multifaceted initiative to cut overdoses by 40% in three years; involves experts from six universities

With a $65.9 million National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant to address Ohio’s opioid epidemic, a consortium of academic, state and community partners—including nine faculty researchers from Case Western Reserve University—aims to reduce overdose deaths statewide by 40% over the next three years.

Other states receiving awards include Kentucky, Massachusetts and New York.

The new initiative, called Optimizing Healing in Ohio Communities (OHiO) and led by Ohio State University, is part of the NIH HEALing Communities Study. The effort will use research to focus on prevention, treatment and recovery programs in the state, which has been hit especially hard by opioid deaths. In 2017, Ohio’s opioid overdose death rate of 47.9 per 100,000 people ranked second worst in the nation, with Cuyahoga County recording 512 overdose deaths—the highest among the state’s 88 counties. The study will focus on 19 highly affected Ohio counties.

Photo of Michael Konstan
Michael Konstan

Michael Konstan, vice dean for translational research at the School of Medicine, will lead the consortium’s effort in Northern Ohio. According to Konstan, Case Western Reserve is responsible for implementing OHiO in Ashtabula, Cuyahoga, Huron, Lucas, Stark and Williams counties. Collectively, in 2017 these six counties accounted for 44% of opioid overdose deaths in the 19 selected counties.

Ohio State will lead the effort for Central and Southeast Ohio, and the University of Cincinnati will lead Southwest Ohio. Experts from Ohio University, University of Toledo and Wright State University also are contributing, along with leaders from state agencies and community organizations.  

The consortium will systematically plan, implement and evaluate data-driven approaches that integrate multi-pronged, evidence-based interventions within health care, behavioral health, justice systems and communities to reduce opioid overdose deaths in the 19 counties.

Along with Konstan, Case Western Reserve faculty involved are:

School of Medicine

  • Christina Delos Reyes, associate professor of psychiatry, will serve on the intervention team as an expert in addiction psychiatry;
  • Scott Frank, director of public health initiatives and associate professor of population and quantitative health sciences, will work on the data and evaluation and community engagement teams as a public liaison for the statewide initiative;
  • Darcy Freedman, the Mary Ann Swetland Professor, will contribute to the community engagement team, tailoring of interventions to facilitate implementation in diverse urban and rural settings in Ohio;
  • Joan Papp, assistant professor of emergency medicine, will work on the intervention team to lend her expertise with controlled substance policy and training overdose educators;
  • Theodore Parran, the Isabel and Carter Wang Professor and chair in medical education, is on the intervention team as an addiction medicine expert; and
  • Mendel Singer, an associate professor of population and quantitative health sciences, is on the health economics and criminal justice teams.

College of Arts and Sciences:

  • Lee Hoffer, associate professor of anthropology and professor of psychiatry, will work with the data and evaluation team as a subject-matter expert on opioid-use disorder;

Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences:

  • Claudia Coulton, Distinguished University Professor and the Lillian F. Harris Professor, will serve on the data and evaluation team, providing her expertise to help measure aspects of neighborhood environments and study the impact of neighborhoods on resident health and wellbeing.

For more information, contact Bill Lubinger at