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NKU Awarded $1 Million Federal Grant to Combat Opioid Epidemic


Sept. 20, 2021 — Northern Kentucky University received $1 million from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) as a part of the Rural Communities Opioid Response Program. This initiative was established to reduce the morbidity and mortality of substance misuse by enhancing rural residents’ access to prevention, treatment, and recovery support.

“This past year, opioid overdose deaths surged across the country, driven by the isolation caused by the coronavirus pandemic and the flood of dangerous fentanyl coming across our borders. Kentucky has tragically suffered one of the worst spikes in overdose deaths in the nation. With today’s federal grant announcement, we are continuing our efforts to reverse this painful trend,” said Senator Mitch McConnell.

NKU, with its collaborators from across northern Kentucky, is the only university in the Commonwealth to have received this award. The university’s Institute for Health Innovation (IHI) has spent the three years working in communities greatly impacted by the crisis.

“Overdose rates in Kentucky have increased by 53% over the past year - the second-highest increase among all states. Our goal is to help Kentucky’s rural communities overcome many structural healthcare challenges, and it starts with expanding access and recovery services for those battling substance use disorder,” said NKU President Ashish Vaidya. “We are grateful for Senator McConnell’s advocacy on behalf of the Commonwealth, and his support of NKU as we develop a deeper culture of health for the region.”

In 2019, NKU was awarded a similar $1 million grant to help Owen County residents. The current funding allows the university to maintain its expansion into Carroll County. NKU will be supporting the efforts of 12 NKU faculty and staff and one graduate research assistant on the project, as well as continuing partnerships with St. Elizabeth Healthcare, NorthKey Community Care, Carroll County Schools, Three Rivers District Health Department, NKYADD, Triad Health and the Life Learning Center, to help Carroll County overcome many of their structural healthcare challenges.

The Institute for Health Innovation has previously worked in Owen and Carroll counties to address the opioid pandemic. In 2020, it received a grant to initiate new activities and support existing initiatives to strengthen evidence-based community-level opioid overdose prevention activities, and enhance public safety, public health and behavioral health collaborations.

For more information on NKU’s Institute for Health Innovation and its initiatives, visit its website.  

About NKU: Founded in 1968, NKU is an entrepreneurial state university of over 16,000 students served by more than 2,000 faculty and staff on a thriving suburban campus nestled between Highland Heights, Kentucky and bustling downtown Cincinnati. We are a regionally engaged university committed to empowering our students to have fulfilling careers and meaningful lives. While we are one of the fastest-growing universities in Kentucky, our professors still know our students' names. For more information, visit