April 12, 2024

UT Health San Antonio launches Be Well Institute for substance use research and treatment

The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UT Health San Antonio) is establishing the Be Well Institute on Substance Use and Related Disorders, a groundbreaking initiative focused on advancing research, education and evidence-based treatments.

The new institute incorporates UT Health San Antonio’s current Be Well Texas initiative as part of a new, comprehensive center of excellence with national reach for research, clinical and public health programs, as well as education and community engagement to advance progress in the field tackling addiction. and related conditions.

The goal of the Be Well Institute is to be a nationally leading substance use and addiction institute for clinical care and research to advance the understanding of substance use.

The institute will support grants and contracts, collaborate with UT Health San Antonio organizational entities whose activities are relevant to these priorities, and provide person-centered, interprofessional and comprehensive care. It will also launch clinical and translational research programs to significantly advance the understanding of substance use into scientific discoveries and more quickly into everyday practice, to improve health and reduce disease and mortality.

This institute will lead a transformative change in addressing substance use and substance use disorders throughout Texas and the nation.”

Robert A. Hromas, MD, FACP, acting president of UT Health San Antonio

“We support the discovery, development and implementation of new treatments, or more effective use of current treatments, and this important effort will facilitate the recruitment of outstanding scientists and physicians to UT Health San Antonio,” he said, “enabling collaboration between scientists, educators and clinicians to discover, validate and implement new treatments, and serve as a vehicle for partnerships among community stakeholders, including scientists, providers and policymakers.

UT Health San Antonio is the largest academic research institution in South Texas with an annual research portfolio of $413 million. Led by Be Well Texas founder Jennifer Sharpe Potter, PhD, MPH, vice president for research at UT Health San Antonio, the new institute marks a major milestone in UT Health San Antonio’s commitment to addressing the complex challenges of substance use .

It will provide compassionate and transformative care for substance abusers and those with substance abuse (SUD) – or co-occurring mental health disorders – through innovative research, community networking and engagement, removing stigma and promoting recovery for patients and their families supported. and communities.

A highly integrated collaboration center

With more than $50 million annually in National Institutes of Health, state and other federal funding, the Be Well Institute will operate as a highly integrated and collaborative center within the University and represent a comprehensive framework and programming for advancing understanding and treatment of substance use. disorders.

Through a wide range of national initiatives, including the Be Well Provider Network, the Be Well Clinic, the Center for Substance Use Training and Telementoring and the Texas Substance Use Symposium, the institute seeks to expand access to services and supports for Texans and beyond expand. .

With support from the National Institute on Drug Abuse Clinical Trials Network and other federal funding, the institute’s activities include research, medical interventions and evidence-based treatments, psychological therapies, social and peer support, lifestyle change counseling, follow-up care, caregiver training. and education, and many community activities and educational initiatives.

Substance use is a significant public health problem that presents several challenges, from the illicit use of substances that have been available for centuries, such as opioids, to medications that have emerged more recently, such as synthetic cannabinoids. Substance use and other mental health disorders have significantly worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic. Substance use among many mentally ill patients also increased during that time, as many sought to self-medicate.

Although opioids are most prominent in the headlines, the most problematic drugs in some regions of the United States, including South Texas, are not opioids, but alcohol, marijuana and stimulants such as methamphetamine. Alcohol consumption is a major contributor to morbidity, including cancer, and mortality. The number of alcohol-related deaths in the US doubled between 1999 and 2017.

There are currently no FDA-approved medications for the treatment of substance use disorders, aside from opioids and alcohol. The explosive use of stimulants and marijuana thus represents a huge unmet medical need.

The worsening overdose epidemic illustrates the desperate need to improve addiction prevention and treatment through research and programmatic efforts. In 2022, an unprecedented 107,000 Americans died from drug overdoses, the highest number ever recorded.

What is often lost in the national conversation about this medical crisis is the fact that this dramatic increase in opioid use and overdoses occurred despite the availability of FDA-approved medications that are effective in many patients: methadone, buprenorphine and naltrexone for opioid use disorder (OLD). and naloxone for opioid overdose. Discovering and advancing new and innovative approaches to treating opioid overdoses and OUD is a critically important undertaking.

Researchers at UT Health San Antonio are conducting state-of-the-art research into new approaches to understanding addiction that will uncover new targets and new treatment methods.

Similarly, UT Health San Antonio faculty are leading the way in addressing SUD statewide, including establishing statewide treatment networks, workforce development initiatives and distributing life-saving naloxone to traditional and non-traditional first responders. Collectively, what is available at UT Health San Antonio is unique in Texas and ready to be expanded nationally.

About Jennifer Sharpe Potter

A nationally recognized public health scientist and practitioner, Potter leads the state in groundbreaking research and treatment aimed at reducing addiction, substance use disorders and related disorders. Her expertise includes the development, dissemination, and implementation of evidence-based practices to support individuals struggling with substance use disorders.

In her role as vice president for research at UT Health San Antonio, Potter provides strategic oversight of the institution’s research initiatives, ensuring the university’s continued commitment to excellence in scientific research and innovation. Her leadership also extends to critical roles as principal investigator of the Institute for Integration of Medicine and Science (IIMS) at UT Health San Antonio and the Clinical Trials Network (CTN) of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), which underlines commitment to pushing the boundaries of healthcare. research into substance use.

Before joining UT Health San Antonio, Potter worked at Harvard Medical School and McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts. She received her Doctorate in Clinical Psychology from the University of Georgia and her Masters of Public Health from the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University. .

“The launch of the Be Well Institute marks a new era of collaboration and innovation in substance use research and care,” said Potter, “and stakeholders from the academic, healthcare and public sectors are encouraged to join to join this. A critical effort as we strive to improve the lives of individuals and communities affected by substance use disorders.”

Source:

University of Texas Health Sciences Center at San Antonio

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