LEXINGTON, Ky. (Jan. 23, 2020) — Last April, the University of Kentucky – partnering with the Commonwealth of Kentucky – was one of four sites selected from across the country for the HEALing Communities Initiative. UK’s grant from the National Institutes of Health totals $87 million, the largest in its history, and is focused over the next three years on reducing opioid-related deaths by 40 percent in 16 counties across the Commonwealth.
During the Tuesday men’s basketball game, 30 of the researchers and staff working on the HEAL grant were honored on the floor, led by the study’s principal investigator and director of UK’s Center on Drug and Alcohol Research, Sharon Walsh.
The opioid epidemic has taken a heavy toll on Kentucky:
- More than 2 million Americans live with opioid use disorder.
- Life expectancy in this country has dropped — fueled, in large measure, by drug overdose deaths.
- Kentucky currently is ranked 5th in the United States for opioid overdose deaths and has suffered through the opioid epidemic since its inception.
UK’s study is part of the NIH HEAL (Helping to End Addiction Long-term) Initiative, a bold, trans-agency effort to speed scientific solutions to stem the national opioid public health crisis. The goal is to develop evidence-based solutions to the opioid crisis and offer new hope for individuals, families and communities affected by this devastating disorder. More broadly, the idea is to see if solutions in different communities across the state can be scaled up and replicated as part of a national approach to the challenge.
The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion three years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" three years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers." We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for four straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.