Institute of Behavioral Research receives $10 million NIH grant

The TCU Institute of Behavioral Research has received a five-year $10 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to work with state and community partners to implement and evaluate an opioid treatment intervention strategy for people in the criminal justice system.

TCU is one of 10 research hubs across the country to be funded through NIH’s Justice Community Opioid Innovation Network to address gaps in treatment across a wide range of settings, including jails, probation and parole. Colleagues Kevin Knight, Ph.D., and Danica Kalling Knight, Ph.D., are TCU principal investigators on the grant.

Following local and state agency guidelines, individuals entering the justice system are to be screened for drug use including opioids and, if identified as high risk or as having a history of opioid use, are to be recommended for an appropriate level of care. Individuals often do not get the treatment they need because criminal justice agencies fail to coordinate with service agencies in making decisions regarding placement, and because of a lack of knowledge about treatment options, including the use of effective medications.

“Texas spends millions of dollars each year on the war on drugs, but the trend in opioid-involved overdose deaths, particularly related to synthetic opioids like fentanyl, continues to rise among the high-risk, justice-involved population,” said Kevin Knight. “This grant allows us to examine ways to reverse this trend through strategies implemented at the intersection of justice and community health.”

Goals for the grant are as follows:

  • Increase access to medical services for recently incarcerated individuals who are at high risk or have a history of opioid use
  • Improve outcomes, including costs, associated with public health and safety regarding individuals who are at high risk for or have a history of opioid use
  • Compare two agency-level implementation approaches designed to increase receipt of appropriate services
  • Examine the effectiveness of practices designed to improve linkages among institutions involved in improving opioid-related public health and safety outcomes

This grant is the fourth in a series of multi-year NIH grants IBR has received to address substance use among justice-involved individuals. One prominent product from these previous projects includes the TCU Drug Screen, a widely-used tool to help identify individuals who have a substance use disorder and would potentially benefit from receiving treatment services.

“Our NIH-funded JCOIN project will provide amazing opportunities for TCU undergraduate and graduate students to be involved in and learn about all aspects of conducting large-scale applied studies designed to have a major impact on public policy and practice,” said Danica Knight.

Students will participate in this large-scale research project, assisting with literature reviews, preparing research materials, participating in site visits and performing qualitative analyses of recorded trends.

Kevin Knight is a professor of psychology and interim director of the Institute of Behavioral Research. He has served as principal investigator on research projects by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institute of Justice and the National Institute of Corrections, among others. Knight participates in advisory activities for organizations that address criminal justice, substance use and related policy issues.

Danica Knight, associate professor of psychology at the Karyn Purvis Institute of Child Development, has engaged in research projects designed to further the understanding of substance abuse treatment processes and promote best practices. She has served as the principal investigator for a federally funded study of addicted women with dependent children and is currently the PI for the Juvenile Justice-Translational Research on Interventions for Adolescents in the Legal System.

The TCU Institute of Behavioral Research is a national research center designed to evaluate and improve treatment strategies that reduce drug abuse, related mental health and social problems, as well as other significant public health risks, particularly among people in the criminal justice system.