New network to link substance abuse research and treatment across Prairies

A new initiative to help co-ordinate efforts to study substance abuse and share intervention strategies across the Prairie provinces has been awarded $1.85 million from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).

"Right now, there is no network linking researchers, service providers, and patient advocates across Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, nor is there any strong co-ordination among research agendas across our region," said Colleen Dell, Research Chair in Substance Abuse at the University of Saskatchewan.

Dell, together with principal investigator Cameron Wild from the University of Alberta's School of Public Health and David Hodgins from the Addictive Behaviours Laboratory at the University of Calgary, lead a Prairie "node" of a national network funded through CIHR's Canadian Research Initiative in Substance Misuse (CRISM) program.

"We've engaged more than 50 key stakeholders from across the Prairies to establish this regional node, dedicated to substance misuse interventions," Dell said. "These range from the Prince Albert Parkland Health Region through to the Indigenous Peoples' Health Research Centre."

The group aims to establish collaborations among university researchers and community partners, as well as develop resources that can be accessed right across the region.

Initiatives will include setting up an information exchange hub to provide front-line resources such as training and treatment manuals, regional substance abuse data, and tools to link researchers. One demonstration project will focus on finding ways for people to stay engaged in their addiction treatment programs. Another will create screening and intervention resources for substance misuse among youth, people seeing their family doctor, and other groups.

Ultimately, the goals are to encourage adoption of evidence-based treatment and prevention strategies for substance abuse, increase capacity in the region to develop and test new strategies, and dovetail these efforts with other CRISM nodes and research partners across the country.

"We have many excellent researchers and graduate students that are often working in isolation," Dell said. "Our intention is to share our knowledge and work together not only on the Prairies, but with partners across the country as well."

The Prairie CRISM node is one of four across the country, the others based in British Columbia, Ontario, and Quebec/Maritimes. More than $12 million for the national CRISM initiative was announced today in Edmonton by federal Minister of Health Rona Ambrose.

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For more information, contact:
James Shewaga
Media Relations Specialist
University of Saskatchewan

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