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The Dartmouth
March 1, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Geisel receives $3.8 mil. grant from National Institute on Drug Abuse

The Center for Technology and Behavioral Health (CTBH) at the Geisel School of Medicine was recently awarded a five-year grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). The $3.8 million grant will be used to pilot a new Northeast Node in NIDA’s National Clinical Trials Network (CTN).

The CTN that links a variety of treatment providers and patient populations throughout the country and creates a national infrastructure that promotes the translation of evidence-based practice from research into real world practice.

NIDA is a division of the National Institute of Health, whose mission is to bring the power of science to bear down on drug abuse and addiction. This is accomplished in a two-step process, Center for the CTN program officer Rob Dobbins said in an email. The first is the strategic support and conduct of research across a broad range of disciplines. The second is ensuring the rapid and effective dissemination and use of the results of that research to significantly improve prevention and treatment as well as to inform policy as it relates to drug abuse and addiction.

This mission complements the existing goals of the CTBH. It aims to provide frameworks necessary to guide scientific research, research that in turn promotes the dissemination of effective technology-based solutions for the treatment of substance use and related issues.

As part of the CTN, the Northeast Node will add to 12 existing Nodes across the nation. Dobbins said that this broad infrastructure allows for rapid, multi-site testing of promising science-based therapies and the subsequent delivery of these treatments to patients in a variety of treatment settings.

Lisa Marsch, director of the CTBH and principal investigator of the Northeast Node, said that this gives the center an added responsibility.

“Our charge is now to do research projects and then disseminate learning from those projects in order to bridge the gap between research and practice,” Marsch said. She added that this would require the CTBH to push out to the national level, providing more evidence-based care models for substance use disorders.

Launching the new node requires adding to the existing infrastructure, hiring new research staff and hiring project coordinators in charge of supervising research and dissemination activities and communication initiatives. The Node will also receive separate funds from NIDA for each of its additional projects.

“We’re really fortunate because it gives us the chance now to be one of a small group of nodes that can now tap into the resources within the clinical trials network to run national trials around screening, prevention, treatment, recovery and support for substance use disorders,” Marsch said.

Historically, the national CTN has typically worked with individuals with problematic substance use who are in outpatient and patient treatment programs. That is not the case, however, in this new phase of the CTN.

“It’s really transformed itself,” Marsch said. “Now, the main focus is on integrating the identification of problems with substance use and treatment within primary care.”

She added, “We have this changing landscape that can help the legislation and increase the pressure for healthcare systems to integrate behavioral health into more traditional general medical settings and to really focus on not carving out addiction care as something only requiring specialty focus as much as it is embracing it and looking at the full spectrum of health and wellness of patients in your care model.”

Marsch also said that there is an increased focus on adolescents.

“We’re really excited that the CTN has now put out increased priority focus on including youths, so there will be a lot more adolescent children often in partnership with pediatric primary care programs focused on identifying kids who can be helped in prevention interventions as well as offering behavior change and treatment interventions for kids who are engaged in problematic substance use,” Marsch said.

Alan Green, director of SYNERGY Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute at the Geisel School of Medicine, said that grant will help further develop the CTBH’s existing mission. “This grant accelerates the strong national presence that [Marsch] has established with the CTBH,” he said. “Her work is at the cutting edge of using technology to impact on mental health issues and this new award will bring more clinical partners to the table to study and disseminate the best clinical practices throughout the community to treat substance addiction.”

Moving forward, NIDA intends to expand its research to develop and test interventions for the management of the wide spectrum of substance use disorders (SUD), with input from and collaboration with, clinical research investigators, healthcare providers, patients, and relevant stakeholders, Dobbins said. He added that the CTN’s grantees, including Dr. Marsch’s Northeastern Node, bring alliances with existing and newly created practice-based primary care or other general medical research networks. Through such collaborations, the expanded CTN plans to execute a comprehensive and staged treatment research agenda to generate the evidence needed for the integrated management of patients with substance misuse and SUD in general medical settings and linked specialty care treatment settings.

This article ran in print under the headline "Geisel receives $3.8 mil. grant."