State Snapshot

The Ohio State University College of Medicine and The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center are the 2022 Spencer Foreman Award for Outstanding Community Engagement recipients from the Association of American Medical Colleges. The video below highlights the important community engagement efforts of the HEALing Communities Study at Ohio State.

The Ohio State University is partnering with the University of Cincinnati, Case Western Reserve University, Ohio University, the University of Toledo, Wright State University, RecoveryOhio, and Ohio communities to assemble a research team that embodies a collaborative spirit, reflects strong institutional identity, uplifts family and community values, and honors diverse demographic and ideological identities.

The Ohio HEALing Communities Study aims to reduce opioid-related deaths through scientific innovation, community engagement, and leadership. We’re partnering with cabinet-level state officials and community leaders to identify what components of evidence-based interventions lead to reducing opioid overdose deaths. The goal of these partnerships is to create Learning Health Communities that use data systems to improve community outcomes.

As the birthplace of programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Ohio has a long history of innovation to combat alcohol, tobacco, and other substance misuse. That innovation continues in this study as communities collaborate with the research team to apply scientific knowledge to make community-driven decisions about preventing and reducing opioid misuse and overdose deaths.

“The reality of seeing members of our own families, colleagues, neighbors, and communities being affected by the opioid crisis makes it a moral imperative to be a part of the HEALing Communities Study.”

Rebecca Jackson, MD (1955-2022),
Principal Investigator,
The Ohio State University

As of 2017, Ohio was ranked second in the nation for opioid overdose deaths. 11. Ohio Department of Health. (2019). Drug overdose. Retrieved from here.

Beginning in 2007, unintentional drug poisoning became the leading cause of injury death, surpassing motor vehicle crashes. 11. Ohio Department of Health. (2019). Drug overdose. Retrieved from here.

Hope in HEALing

Our Grant

Up until 2017, opioid overdose deaths continued to increase, making Ohio the second-highest ranked state for opioid overdose deaths in the nation. Past efforts to prevent opioid overdose deaths failed to impact Ohioans because of a lack of evidence-based approaches for assisting communities to implement a custom-designed response strategy.

The Ohio HEALing Communities Study can remedy this by improving existing infrastructures and partnerships. These collaborations are led by a research plan that focuses on achieving a decrease in opioid misuse and overdose deaths.

Our study not only prioritizes which prevention and treatment strategies work best, but also how to best implement and sustain effective programming within Ohio HEALing communities. The knowledge we obtain on best prevention, implementation, and treatment practices will inform how we move forward as a state and a nation to reduce opioid overdose deaths.

What We Hope to Learn

The Ohio HEALing Communities research team will collaborate with our communities to collect data that will inform how to support local efforts to reduce opioid misuse and overdose deaths.

We are partnering with RecoveryOhio and Ohio communities to understand the most-effective strategies to reach populations most at risk for opioid overdoses, to get those in need into treatment, and to facilitate a healthy quality of life for people recovering from opioid use disorder. We also want to learn how care and treatment can be integrated into different settings—ranging from jails and prisons to outpatient treatment—to decrease the economic and emotional toll of the opioid epidemic among Ohioans and the state of Ohio.

Our Communities in the HEALing Communities Study

Map of Healing Communities in Ohio

Wave One

Ashtabula County

Athens County

Cuyahoga County

Darke County

Greene County

Guernsey County

Hamilton County

Lucas County

Scioto County

Study Contact

Co-Principal Investigator

Bridget Freisthler, Ph.D.

HEALing Communities Study

Professor & Associate Dean for Research and Faculty Development College of Social Work

The Ohio State University


Co-Principal Investigator

John Winhusen, PhD

HEALing Communities Study

Director, Addiction Science Division

Professor, Department of Psychiatry

University of Cincinnati


Project Director

Kristin Harlow

HEALing Communities Study

Ohio Project Director, The Ohio University College of Public Health


In Memoriam: Dr. Rebecca Jackson

(August 18, 1955 - October 11, 2022)

Rebecca Jackson, MD

Dr. Jackson was a visionary and nationally recognized leader in the world of translational science and research. She served as the PI of the HEALing Communities Study in Ohio from 2018 until her passing in 2022. While her clinical work specialized in understanding and improving women’s health, she built a legacy that lives on through her impact as a leader. She supported the education and training of translational scientists and physicians and served as a mentor to many. Dr. Jackson’s work will forever leave a profound impact on the future of medicine.

Families walking in the sunshine