Update on CIHR Opioids Initiatives

Dear colleagues,

November was an active month for a number of important initiatives here at CIHR-INMHA. While I look forward to updating you on many of these activities in future newsletters, I would like to focus this month on the considerable progress that has been made recently on the response to the opioid crisis.

As you know, the Minister of Health has made addressing the national opioid crisis a top priority, committing to protecting the health and safety of all Canadians through a comprehensive, compassionate, collaborative and evidence-based approach to addressing problematic substance use.

By mobilizing both strategic and open competition funding, CIHR is currently supporting the national mandate to address the opioid crisis with a multi-pronged approach that is being delivered through strategic funding support for the Canadian Research Initiative in Substance Misuse (CRISM), as well as funding for open knowledge synthesis grants.

CRISM, a pan-Canadian network that was the brain child of my predecessor Tony Phillips, consists of about 500 researchers, service providers, policy makers and people with lived experience. Arranged into four teams, or Nodes, distributed across the country, CRISM is dedicated to conducting research and translating evidence-based interventions into clinical practice, community-based prevention, harm reduction, and health system changes.

In addition to a $7.5 million grant to study how to best integrate evidence-based interventions into practical settings, CRISM has also received funding from CIHR to develop a National Guideline for the Clinical Management of Opioid Use Disorder and has recently made substantial progress on an innovative national clinical trial aimed at improving the health of people living with opioid dependence.

The National Guideline, which is anticipated to be published soon, was the subject of a recent knowledge exchange event that was co-hosted by CIHR, Health Canada, Alberta Health and CRISM. This event was attended by the federal Minister of Health, Alberta’s Associate Minister of Health, as well as relevant key stakeholders from across Canada and was focused on laying the foundation for the effective implementation of the guideline – including what strategies work best to bridge the gap between what evidence tells us, and what is done in practice. This event began the important process of stakeholder engagement, allowing participants to share best practices and build momentum towards enhancing access to treatments for Canadians.

In addition to knowledge exchange, CRISM is also conducting clinical research into treatments for prescription opioid dependence through the collaborative, national study: Optimizing patient centered-care: a pragmatic randomized control trial comparing models of care in the management of prescription opioid misuse (OPTIMA). With training completed and infrastructure now in place, OPTIMA has just begun the process of recruiting patients – an exciting milestone in this important study which will address real-world treatment conditions to generate practice-based evidence that will be extremely valuable for informing patient care and improving overall health outcomes in Canada.

Lastly, we are nearing the deadline on the Knowledge Synthesis Request for Applications (RFA) to Address the Opioid Crisis. This RFA will support syntheses to address the opioid crisis, relevant to one or more of the four pillars of the Canadian drugs and substances strategy: prevention, treatment, harm reduction and enforcement. These funds, which total $1.85 million, are matching knowledge users with researchers to enable maximum impact. I look forward to sharing more about these when they are announced in early 2018.

In closing, I welcome your thoughts on these or other INMHA initiatives and I want to say thank you to our supporters and collaborators who are working with us to improve the health and lives of Canadians. I look forward to sharing even more exciting progress with you in the New Year, including an update on the Canadian Brain Research Strategy (CBRS), an introduction to our newly-formed Institute Advisory Board (IAB), and the launch of our formal newsletter.

Kind regards,

Samuel Weiss, PhD, FRSC, FCAHS
Scientific Director
CIHR Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction

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