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Public Health’s Elizabeth Evans Appears at NIH Opioid Initiative Scientific Meeting as Plenary Speaker

Elizabeth Evans
Elizabeth Evans

Elizabeth Evans, professor of health promotion and policy in the School of Public Health and Health Sciences, was an invited plenary speaker at the fifth annual National Institutes of Health (NIH) HEAL Initiative Scientific Meeting, held Feb. 7-8 in Bethesda, Maryland.

The HEAL – Helping to End Addiction Long-term – Initiative, is an NIH-wide effort to speed scientific solutions to stem the national opioid public health crisis. The meeting brought together more than 800 HEAL-funded researchers across the HEAL research portfolio and career stage spectrum, NIH staff, people with lived and living experience, community partners advising HEAL-funded projects, advocacy groups and other stakeholders.

Evans joined a panel that included Michele Staton from the University of Kentucky, Katherine Marks from the Kentucky Department for Behavioral Health, and Ed Hayes, from the Franklin County (Massachusetts) Sheriff’s Office for a session titled, “Building Sustainable Research-Practice Partnerships: Insights from the Justice Community Opioid Innovation Network (JCOIN).” JCOIN is an ambitious, $155 million effort involving scientists at dozens of institutions nationwide to improve opioid addiction treatment in criminal justice settings.

Evans, the co-principal investigator of a $10 million JCOIN research project examining a pilot opioid treatment program for jail detainees in seven Massachusetts counties, has published several papers on the implementation of the program with her collaborators.

With her fellow panelists, Evans shared how the carceral-legal system is a key part of our public health ecosystem and emphasized the necessity of forming research collaborations that include jails and prisons to create capacity to address the ongoing opioid overdose epidemic.

Evans also shared insights on how to build sustainable research-practice relationships, along with her community-based research partners from the Massachusetts Justice Community Opioid Innovation Network (MassJCOIN) and other JCOIN investigators. The panel also discussed the challenges and rewards of leading justice-involved research, methods for building trust with a diversity of research partners and opportunities for new research collaborations.