CBSHS receives funding to elevate opioid use disorder treatment programs in rural communities

March 12, 2024

Researchers in the Clemson University College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences (CBSHS) have received $5.5 million from the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) National Institute on Drug Abuse to develop data-driven approaches for opioid use disorder treatment, recovery and prevention in rural communities.

Lior Rennert, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Public Health Sciences and director of the CBSHS Center for Public Health Modeling and Response, and Alain Litwin, M.D., professor of practice in the Department of Psychology and vice chair for academics in the Department of Medicine for Prisma Health-Upstate, will serve as principal investigators on the project.

Lior Rennert, Ph.D.

The project aims to develop, deliver and evaluate peer support specialist (PSS) intervention programs and increase medications for opioid use disorder (MOUD) treatment and retention rates in rural and underserved communities. Researchers will develop a dynamic, data-driven modeling framework to identify and prioritize at-risk communities throughout South Carolina and systematically deliver mobile health clinics with PSS services to areas in critical need.

“As overdoses continue to rise across the state and nation, this innovative and sustainable framework has the potential to prevent hundreds to thousands of opioid-related deaths in South Carolina and beyond,” said Rennert. “The College’s mission to build people and communities hinges on citizens’ health and well-being, and our model can be scaled up to prevent many more deaths – from opioids and other substances – if adopted by public health decision makers throughout our state and other regions.”

Alain Litwin, M.D.

Co-investigators on the project include Kaileigh Byrne, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Psychology, Moonseong Heo, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Public Health Sciences, and Natasha Martin, Ph.D., professor at the University of California San Diego.

“This support from the NIH allows us to broaden the scope of opioid use disorder treatment throughout our state,” said Litwin. “By deploying mobile health clinics equipped to provide PSS intervention programs, we have the opportunity to decrease barriers to care, increase treatment retention rates in rural and underserved communities and inform public health practices nationwide.”

Over the course of the six-year grant, the initiative will work to change the landscape for opioid use disorder treatment by offering accessible and sustainable care through mobile health clinics and PSS interventions.


About the Departments of Public Health Sciences and Psychology

The Departments of Public Health Sciences and Psychology are in the College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences (CBSHS). Established in July 2016, CBSHS is a 21st-century, land-grant college that combines work in seven disciplines – communication; nursing; parks, recreation and tourism management; political science; psychology; public health sciences; sociology, anthropology and criminal justice – to further its mission of “building people and communities” in South Carolina and beyond.