Mai Pho, MD, a CFAR administrative supplement recipient, with her partner Wiley D. Jenkins, PhD, MPH have been awarded a $1.3 million federal grant to study the Illinois state epidemic affecting the 16 southernmost counties, or the Illinois Delta Region, for the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine and the University of Chicago Medicine.

The Illinois Delta Region is noted to have particularly high rates of hepatitis C and opioid overdoses, especially among people aged 25 to 44 as well as unusually high rates of neonatal abstinence syndrome, which affects newborns who were exposed to the drug while their mothers were pregnant.

The first step of this project will be to speak with community stakeholders and interviewing several hundred people in the Delta Region who inject drugs. They also will use public health data to create maps to show particular areas of vulnerability. Those results will determine what strategies from needle exchanges to telehealth support are most appropriate for the community. The team hopes their work makes it easier for people struggling with addiction to get medical care and help create more effective interventions, treatment and recovery programs.

The grant was one of eight awarded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse in cooperation with the Appalachian Regional Commission, the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.