'Behind the Blue': How UK, State Partners Are Working to Help Incarcerated Women With Opioid Use Disorder

The University of Kentucky recently received an $8.8 million grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institutes of Health, to establish a Clinical Research Center as part of the Justice Community Opioid Innovation Network (JCOIN) to support research on quality addiction treatment for opioid use disorder (OUD) in criminal justice settings nationwide. The awards, totaling an estimated $155 million, will support the multi-year innovation network, including 10 research institutions and two centers that will provide supportive infrastructure.

At UK, the grant will be used to create the Kentucky Women’s Justice Community Opioid Innovation Network (WJCOIN) to enhance access to opioid use disorder treatment for women as they transition from jail back to the community. In Kentucky, women represent the fastest-growing demographic in the criminal justice system and are also susceptible to unique vulnerabilities that can lead to opioid overdose.

Michele Staton, associate professor in the UK College of Medicine Department of Behavioral Science, will serve as principal investigator on the project. Staton will lead a team of experts from across UK’s campus including the colleges of Medicine, NursingPublic Health and Arts and Sciences; the Center on Drug and Alcohol Research; and UK HealthCare’s Kentucky Telecare.

On this week’s edition of “Behind the Blue,” UK Public Relations and Strategic Communication’s Allison Perry sits down with Staton, along with Katherine Marks, a UK College of Medicine research assistant professor and project director for the Kentucky Opioid Response Effort within the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, and Sarah Johnson, director of addiction services with the Kentucky Department of Corrections, to discuss the partnerships, increases in patient care, and community support this grant will enable in their work.

[Editor’s note: In one response, Johnson mentions that there are nine correctional facilities across the state participating in the research. She later noted, after the interview, there are actually only six participating correctional facilities.]