UAB’s Hess named to national substance abuse panel

UAB emergency physician Erik Hess has been named to a federal governmental committee on substance abuse disorder.

Hess2Erik Hess, M.D.Erik Hess, M.D., has been named to a new federal government committee tasked with identifying areas for improved coordination related to substance use disorder research and prevention. The Interdepartmental Substance Use Disorders Coordinating Committee is part of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, housed in the United States Department of Health and Human Services

Hess, vice chair for Research in the Department of Emergency Medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, was nominated by the Alabama departments of Public Health and Mental Health. He currently leads an initiative within the UAB Emergency Department to help patients with opioid use disorders get appropriate therapy and referral for further assistance in an effort to put a dent in the epidemic. The program, called the ED MAT, or Medication Assisted Treatment Protocol, is funded by a $1.5 million grant from SAMHSA. 

“Substance abuse issues and the nation’s opioid epidemic play out every day in hospital emergency departments across the nation,” Hess said. “I’m honored to be able to represent the state of Alabama and UAB in this important undertaking.”

The committee is charged with: 

  • Identifying areas for improved coordination of activities related to substance use disorders, including research, services, supports and prevention activities across all relevant federal agencies. 
  • Presenting recommendations to the secretary of HHS for improving federal programs for the prevention and treatment of, and recovery from, substance use disorders, including by expanding access to prevention, treatment and recovery services.
  • Analyzing substance use disorder prevention and treatment strategies in different regions of and populations in the United States and evaluate the extent to which federal substance use disorder prevention and treatment strategies are aligned with state and local strategies. 
  • Making recommendations to the secretary regarding any appropriate changes with respect to the activities and strategies described above.
  • Making recommendations to the secretary regarding public participation in decisions relating to substance use disorders and the process by which public feedback can be better integrated into such decisions.
  • Making recommendations to ensure that substance use disorder research, services, supports and prevention activities of the Department of Health and Human Services and other federal agencies are not unnecessarily duplicative.

The committee will be made up of physicians, directors of state substance abuse agencies, research and advocacy representatives, SUD treatment professionals, drug court judges, and public safety officers, along with representatives from federal agencies that support or conduct activities or programs related to substance use disorders.

The committee was authorized by the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act Public Law 115-271.