HEALing Communities, Addressing the Opioid Epidemic

Photo of Sharon Walsh at the podium

“And that brings me to Dr. Sharon Walsh and all the researchers here in Kentucky who are building a specific and powerful dream, a dream of a model community, one that works together across divides … to make sure that no one who suffers from opioid use disorder slips through the cracks. We call this the HEALing Communities Study … Applications came to NIH from all over the country … And at every stage, I will have to tell you, Kentucky emerged as the most compelling applicant.”  – Dr. Francis Collins, Director, the National Institutes of Health

  At the University of Kentucky, we share a powerful dream of a model community – a Commonwealth community where the national tide of death and decimation from opioid use is finally stopped.   Earlier this month – along with Dr. Collins, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and leaders from our Congressional delegation – we officially kicked off the HEALing Communities Study in Kentucky.   As Dr. Collins said, the University of Kentucky is leading the nation in addressing one of our most significant health challenges. Led by Dr. Sharon Walsh, a team of some 20 researchers across six colleges at UK was awarded an $87 million grant earlier this year, the largest in our institution’s history.   The goal: reducing deaths from opioid use disorder in 16 counties over three years by 40 percent. If we are successful, we will return hope and healing to communities across the state. And, we will create a model of treatment and prevention that can be replicated across the country.   After all, we have been called, in collaboration with partners and leaders at the federal and state levels, to turn the tide. We ask ourselves at the University of Kentucky: What is possible? When smart, determined, good-hearted people hear the trumpet sound and link arms in common cause: Healing is possible. A saved life is possible. A restored dignity is possible. A renewed family is possible. A rebuilt future is possible.   Your contributions to – and support of – these efforts help us attract the researchers who pursue solutions. They help us build the facilities that enable their work. And they help us recruit the students whose leadership will make a brighter future possible. I’m sharing with you this video from last week’s launch where national leaders gathered to kick off our effort and commemorate the leadership we are demonstrating every day at the University of Kentucky. I hope you share my pride in this latest effort, and in our national leadership in addressing one of our country’s most daunting challenges.   You help us demonstrate – every day, in powerful and compelling ways – that Kentucky Can make a difference.   Thank you. Eli Capilouto President  University of Kentucky