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UGA Researchers Receive $1.4 Million Grant to Fight the Opioid Crisis in Georgia

There are currently an estimated 1.7 million Americans suffering from substance use disorders related to prescription opioids. In 2017,the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declared a public health emergency to address the nation’s growing opioid crisis.

As part of a $400 million effort to combat the epidemic, the U.S. Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA) recently awarded a $1.4 million grant to University of Georgia researchers who will work to enhance community-based training for students preparing to become behavioral health professionals focused on opioid and substance use disorders.

Dr. Bernadette Heckman, principal investigator of the grant, believes this award will go a long way to alleviate the crisis in Georgia’s opioid-afflicted public health district 10, which includes ten counties in northeast Georgia. 

“Roughly 60% of clients that are seeking opioid substance use treatment in district 10 have low access to those services,” Heckman said. “In health district 10 we are hoping to increase the size of the behavioral health workforce for managing and treating opioid use disorders.”

Most of the counties in district 10 are severely underserved by mental health professionals and considered ‘mental health shortage areas’. Armed with HRSA’s $1.4 million grant, Heckman’s team aims to change this. 


“Ultimately our goal is to create and develop a sustainable infrastructure of training,” Heckman said. “An ongoing training program will continually link care plans, field placements, and facilitate professional integrated care”

Over the course of three years, Dr. Heckman’s team will train about 100 graduate students to help increase mental and behavioral health services in Georgia and beyond.