NIH-Funded Research on Opioid Abuse Treatment Continues at New Location at George Mason University

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A $20 million, 5-year program launched in 2019 to study substance abuse will continue its groundbreaking research in a new location beginning this summer.

The National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) Justice Community Opioid Innovation Network (JCOIN) Coordinating and Translation Center (CTC) at George Mason University moves from its previous location at Mason’s Fairfax Campus to Mason’s Arlington Campus, where it will be housed at Virginia Square’s Vernon Smith Hall. The change in location brings the scholars and student workers of JCOIN closer to the Schar School of Policy and Government, home of the 30-employee Center for Advancing Correctional Excellence! (ACE!), which manages JCOIN.

“The team at Mason and our partners provide opportunities to advance science and practice,” said University Professor Faye S. Taxman, who leads ACE! and the JCOIN center. “The new location will help us continue break new ground in building the next generation of workforce scientists and clinicians in a field that is vitally important to society.”

In 2019, NIH, through the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), awarded Mason $3 million a year for a 5-year grant to establish JCOIN, part of the NIH Helping to End Addiction Long-term (HEAL) Initiative, an aggressive, trans-agency effort to speed scientific solutions to stem the national opioid public health crisis. Shortly thereafter, NIDA awarded JCOIN an additional $5 million to fund small grants to researchers and practitioners doing research on substance use.

Now beginning its third year, the JCOIN CTC is responsible for the management of logistics, engagement with practitioners and other key stakeholders in the justice and behavioral health fields, and dissemination of products and key research findings, according to NIH.

Mason’s CTC also conducts research to identify effective dissemination strategies for reaching criminal justice and addiction treatment stakeholders and provides funding for four JCOIN Rapid Innovation Grants (J-RIG), with plans to fund up to four such studies each year. An educational component provides outreach and mentorship to researchers and practitioners working in justice settings.

Schar School Professor Faye Taxman
ACE! Director Faye Taxman: ‘All of this is done in the context of educating students and clinicians who work with this disenfranchised population.’

Mason faculty has access to pilot funding for new studies to support future grant opportunities, as well as opportunities to work on studies within the center or across other clinical groups.

The grant also provides for a three-tier, multiyear mentorship program for developing young scholars.

“JCOIN is an exciting research enterprise to address the problems of substance abuse among individuals in the justice systems,” said Taxman, who teaches at the Schar School. “At Mason, we serve the NIDA-funded research enterprise to develop a better understanding of translational science, build new effective dissemination methods and tools, and test new implementation strategies. All of this is done in the context of educating students and clinicians who work with this disenfranchised population.” 

Students benefit from the JCOIN center through opportunities for mentoring and networking, pilot funding for studies with mentors, and conference participation.

The Schar School of Policy and Government is one of the 10 schools and colleges of George Mason University, with approximately 2,000 students, 90 full-time faculty members, and 23 degree and certificate programs offered on Mason’s campuses in Fairfax and Arlington, Va. Among the degree programs are government and international affairs, public policy, public administration, political science, international security, and international commerce and policy. The Schar School prepares undergraduate and graduate students to be leaders and managers who solve problems and advance the public good in all sectors and levels of government—in the United States and throughout the world.

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