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Dal researcher to lead new federally funded “node” to improve health outcomes for substance users
Clinical psychology and psychiatry researcher Sherry Stewart will lead a new Atlantic Canadian research “node” dedicated to guiding substance use health policies and practices funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.
Announced by the Honourable Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health, on June 4, Dr. Stewart and the Atlantic node will receive $2.4 million as part a new $17-million CIHR investment in the Canadian Research Initiative in Substance Misuse (CRISM). Funding will also support a national study on methamphetamine-use disorder, including research to take place at an Atlantic site in Fredericton, N.B.
The new Atlantic Canadian node joins a network of five nodes that comprise CRISM. In 2015, CIHR established CRISM with nodes in British Columbia, the Prairies, Ontario, and Quebec-Atlantic Canada. The Atlantic Canada and Quebec nodes will now operate independently to focus on issues in each region, while continuing to collaborate with the full network to provide a greater level of understanding of substance use and its origins and treatment at local and national levels.
“This announcement represents a positive step forward in ensuring the Atlantic provinces are better prepared to meet the challenges of drug use and addiction,” says Alice Aiken, Dalhousie’s vice president research and innovation. “With Dr. Stewart’s research leadership, the federal government will gain the data and guidance they need to help steer our region and the country through this complex health issue.”
Related reading: Study reveals unequal access to addiction care in the Maritimes
Improving services through research
The Atlantic node of CRISM will focus on three research areas, including youth, mental health-substance use comorbidity, and rural and remote services for addictions. In particular, the node will prioritize projects on the impacts of youth tobacco and cannabis vaping on lung health, psychosocial interventions for co-occurring mental health and polysubstance use problems in opiate substitution therapy clients, and partnerships with Indigenous communities around substance-use service delivery.
“We look forward to working collaboratively with addictions researchers, service providers, persons with lived and living experience of substance use, Indigenous communities, and policy makers, to conduct clinically-relevant research that will ultimately improve the services available in the Atlantic Region for those who use substances, and those struggling with addiction,” says Dr. Stewart.
Dr. Stewart is a clinical psychologist and Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Addictions and Mental Health. A fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, she directs the Mood, Anxiety and Addiction Co-morbidity (MAAC) Lab at Dalhousie, and pursues cutting-edge research centred around addiction psychology and emotional disorders, and their co-occurrence with addictions.
“Canada is facing a devastating opioid overdose crisis, which has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Harms associated with substance use continue to impact families across Canada, and concerns are also growing over the substantial rise in methamphetamine use in many parts of the country,” says Samuel Weiss, scientific director, CIHR Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction. “This support will ensure the continuation and expansion of CRISM’s research and knowledge mobilization activities focused on substance use harms.”
Related reading: Cracking the code on opioid‑prescribing patterns in Nova Scotia
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