UW receives grant to conquer the opioid epidemic

“In Wyoming, rates of prescription opioid use during pregnancy were greater than 30% between 2000 and 2007, as stated by Sandy Root-Elledge, the principal investigator of this grant. “The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that the incidence of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) in Wyoming was between 5 – 10 babies per 1000 births in 2012 and incident rates have increased since that time. In 2016, nearly 1000 children were placed in foster care in 2015 with 28% of placements attributable to parental opioid abuse.”

Root-Elledge is the executive director of the Wyoming Institute for Disabilities (WIND). She has been a part of the organization since 2004 serving multiple roles. She was appointed executive director in April of 2016. Furthermore, she is a mother of two children with developmental disabilities showing how dedicated she is to this project.

WIND submitted a proposal to receive an Administration on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AIDD) grant in October and was awarded the grant in November. To start, WIND has been initiating grant activities including working with partners to perfect the curriculum, develop a launch plan for the Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes (ECHO) and develop a plan to evaluate the effectiveness and success of the curriculum.

“AIDD is dedicated to ensuring that people with disabilities have opportunities to make their own choices, contribute to society, have supports to live independently, and live free of abuse, neglect and exploitation,” stated Root-Elledge. “AIDD is organized within the Administration on Disabilities in the Administration for Community Living which operates division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).”

Now they will face the opioid crisis along with Ohio State University and the University of Cincinnati. WIND has also been providing training to ten-thousand individuals since 2014 all over the country concerning the opioid addiction.

“The overall goal of Project SCOPE: Supporting Children of the Opioid Epidemic,” explained Root-Elledge, “is to develop a professional learning and development model to increase the capacity of early care providers to support children and families impacted by opioid use.”

The opioid epidemic has been an urgent situation in, not just Wyoming, but the country as a whole, and WIND has a few steps to help them make a difference. First they will “develop a curriculum and interdisciplinary training model that share specialized knowledge using the ECHO community of practice model,” as stated by Root-Elledge. ECHO was created at the University of New Mexico and it has already been taken into effect.

The ECHO system has multiple online sessions available for the public to become more educated about disabilities. Root-Elledge and her colleagues, the WIND Director of Community Education Canyon Hardesty, Training Services and the WIND Director of Research and Evaluation Eric Moody, hope to spread this training system world wide through the national network of University Centers of Excellence on Disabilities.


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