Vermont U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy announced Thursday that the University of Vermont will receive $6.6 million from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to create a Rural Center of Excellence on Substance Abuse Disorders.
Leahy, a Democrat, is the vice-chair of the Senate Appropriations committee. He authored provisions in the 2019 Labor-HHS Appropriations Act to provide funds to three states to create the new centers. Vermont’s senior senator said he hopes the initiative helps rural communities combat addiction. "The overdose rate is so high. And what I argued is that it’s rural areas of the country that don’t have the help. This makes a difference. I put in $20 million overall for these three centers. As vice-chairman of the Appropriations Committee I was able to assure the Secretary that there’ll more money put in. But I’ve heard too many stories, too many, including some that especially tear at me because I know the people. And now we have a methadone problem starting."
The new center will be located at the University of Vermont and will work in collaboration with UVM Medical Center. School President Suresh Garimella says the concept for this center fits the college’s mission as a land grant university. “There’s no problem in recent times that is as challenging and big as an epidemic as the opioid crisis. And so it’s been one of the most devastating around the nation. Our Center of Excellence will actually serve Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire so there’s lots of need. What we’re doing in this Center of Excellence, there’s a large team, what they’re doing is to actually come up with a system which will work not only for this substance abuse crisis but for future ones as well.”
The center will work to identify, disseminate and implement evidence-based research and treatment according to UVM Vice President of Research Dr. Richard Galbraith. “When you have a problem that crosses so many different areas what we tend to do is solve a little bit of it here or come up with a new approach there. What this does is it gives us the opportunity to link all these parts together so that we can have people doing really fundamental science at the university. They can be doing clinical trials but they’re working with clinicians who are looking after patients in rural settings. All of these people need to work together to provide integrated care. And I think that’s what this will give us and that’s what will set this state apart and hopefully blaze the way not only for our state but the other New England States and other states in the country.”
The other two Rural Centers of Excellence on Substance Abuse Disorders will be established in Stockbridge, Georgia and at the University of Rochester in Rochester, New York.