UA faculty awarded $1.3M grant to improve treatment for users and families affected by opioid use disorder


Ohio is currently second in the country for fatal drug overdoses. The impact of addiction is devastating and reaches far beyond the user. That’s why a team of faculty from The University of Akron is partnering with colleagues from Drexel University to address treatment gaps, determined to help affected families deal with the impact of trauma caused by the opioid abuse.

The project, “Interdisciplinary Training Initiative (ITI) for Children, Adolescents & Families Impacted by Opioid User Disorder (OUD)” will enhance and expand community-based experiential training with a focus on youth and their families impacted by Opioid Use Disorder and other Substance Use Disorders. Led by Dr. Rikki A. Patton, associate professor at UA’s School of Counseling, and Dr. Jessica Chou, assistant professor in the Department of Counseling and Family Therapy Department at Drexel University, the project received a $1.3M million grant from The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.


“Many people suffer from opioid addiction,” said Patton. “The individuals who suffer from opioid addiction may receive treatment, but most families related to users do not. The impacts of the addiction and how it affects the family unit is overlooked.”

Addressing the treatment gaps

The ambitious ITI project involves the training of site supervisors and students who study marriage and family therapy and/or community mental health. Over the course of one year, they will participate in online educational modules, webinars, and mixed reality simulations supported by evidence-based, trauma-informed culturally competent practices for prevention, treatment and recovery support for users — and their families. Training will begin in January with 10 online modules for training on opioid use covering children, family and youth. The learners participating in the program will be chosen from both universities and will receive a stipend for undergoing the training.

The opioid crisis is lethal and devastating but addressing treatment gaps by training mental health professionals can provide communities with the valuable and accessible help needed to persist when it seems impossible.

“We know how badly affected this community and others have been hit by the opioid epidemic,” said Patton. “There is a painful ripple effect of addiction and developing an integrated treatment that focuses on both the user and the extended family is needed.”

Media contact: Cristine Boyd, 330-972-6476 or cboyd