Epidemiology and Public Health Researchers Surpass $51 Million in NIH Funding

With $6.8 million in grants awarded by the NIH’s National Institute on Drug Abuse this fiscal year, the Miller School-based Florida Node Alliance of the National Drug Abuse Treatment Clinic Trials Network has surpassed $51 million in funding over the 12 years of its ongoing NIDA grant to conduct a broad range of drug abuse treatment trials.

The funding has helped principal investigators José Szapocznik, Ph.D., professor and chair of epidemiology and public health, and Lisa Metsch, Ph.D., professor of epidemiology and public health, and project director Viviana Horigian, Ph.D., research assistant professor, transform Miami into a major hub for translating drug abuse treatment research into practice. The trio has also received an additional $10 million in NIH Research Project Grants made possible by the Florida Node Alliance.

One of 13 centers in the United States, the Florida Node Alliance is dedicated to researching drug abuse treatments in practice settings, providing training on clinical trials and transferring drug treatment technologies to organizations in the United States and abroad. The funds support the infrastructure for the Research Training and Monitoring Center and University- and community-based staff who conduct a range of clinical trials.

“The Network allows us to conduct trials in a variety of practice settings, like STD clinics, drug abuse treatment programs, primary health clinics and emergency departments, which helps determine if treatments found to be effective in controlled settings also work in the real world,” said Szapocznik, who is also director of the Center for Family Studies.

Over the past five years, the Florida Node Alliance has led or co-led seven Clinical Trials Network trials.

Metsch, director of the Division of Health Services Research and Policy, is the national lead investigator of two of the studies now underway: “HIV Rapid Testing and Counseling in Drug Abuse Treatment Programs in the U.S.,” and “Project HOPE: Hospital Visit as Opportunity for Prevention and Engagement for HIV-Infected Drug Users.”

Szapocznik was the national lead investigator on “Brief Strategic Family Therapy for Adolescent Drug Abusers” and co-lead investigator for “Motivational Enhancement Treatment to Improve Treatment Engagement and Outcome for Spanish-Speaking Individuals Seeking Treatment for Substance Abuse.”

Horigian is principal investigator on an initiative to replicate the clinical trials center at Mexico’s National Psychiatric Institute by transferring clinical trials and drug abuse treatment technology to the institute and community-based treatment programs throughout Mexico City.

Now with 48 community treatment programs across the U.S., the Florida Node Alliance supports the Office on National Drug Control Policy and NIDA initiatives to bring a range of health settings into the delivery of evidence-based services for substance-using individuals by providing a vast research infrastructure that, through partnerships among community-based providers and scientists, develops and implements practice-relevant clinical trials.

To date, more than 9,000 individuals have participated in the Florida Node Alliance studies.

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