Physicians Hall Front

Medical College of Wisconsin-led project to address opioid use disorder earns funding from Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

Milwaukee, Dec. 6, 2017 – Military veterans can experience high levels of chronic pain due to their military service, and are at risk of developing addiction from the opiates used to treat their pain. Nationwide, opioid addiction and misuse is becoming an epidemic. The Milwaukee VA Medical Center, Medical College of Wisconsin and other partners are working aggressively to help reduce opioid misuse. Thanks to support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Clinical Scholars Award, an interdisciplinary team of faculty at the Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) is working with community partners in Milwaukee to prevent opioid use disorder (OUD) among U.S. military veterans.

Using a community-engaged research (CEnR) approach, Milwaukee Prevention of Opioid Misuse through Peer Training (PROMPT) integrates chronic pain treatment and trauma-informed care with input from local military veterans to develop innovative ways of addressing OUD. CEnR emphasizes community stakeholder involvement in all phases of the research including project/concept development, data collection and interpretation and dissemination of the results.

"Opioid misuse has been on the rise nationally and it has devastated many lives in the Milwaukee area," said Syed Ahmed, MD, MPH, DrPH, senior associate dean for community engagement and professor of family and community medicine at MCW and the project’s principal investigator and clinical scholar. "One of the strengths of this project is the community-academic partnership structure that includes the voices and perspectives of community members and stakeholders affected by this issue. We are equal collaborators in the research process, and that is key to driving success."

A team of partners from MCW, Dryhootch and Mental Health America of Wisconsin (MHA) contributed to the development of this project. Dryhootch is a nonprofit organization founded in 2008 by a Vietnam veteran with a mission of helping veterans and their families. MHA is an affiliate of the national non-profit dedicated to helping all Americans achieve wellness by living mentally healthier lives, and has extensive experience implementing programs for populations affected by opioid addiction.

"Veterans are trained to have the back of another brother or sister in combat. So peer mentoring is the most effective in reaching the veterans that we work with. Our goal is to provide wrap-around services and support to fellow veterans while building a sense of camaraderie," said Bob Curry, Founder and President of Dryhootch. "It's great that this research project involves us as equal voices at the table to hear our perspectives and understand our needs."

Academic partners L. Kevin Hamberger, PhD, MCW professor of family and community medicine; Kajua Lor, PharmD, MCW chair of the department of clinical sciences and associate professor in the School of Pharmacy; and Robert Hurley, MD, PhD, professor and executive director of Pain Shared Services at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center round out the team of RWJF Clinical Scholars. The project team also includes Zeno Franco, PhD, MCW associate professor of community engagement; Sarah O’Connor, MCW community engagement program manager, and Tiffiney Gray, MCW program coordinator; Bob Curry and Otis Winstead of Dryhootch; and Martin Gollin-Graves and Anne Ruiz of MHA.

This project is supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholars leadership development program, which funds teams of clinicians from different disciplines who collaborate to address a problem in their community.

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