Professor works to combat opioid addiction in rural Georgia

KENNESAW, Ga. | Oct 24, 2018

Evelina Sterling receives research grant from the Georgia Health Foundation

With roughly 90 people dying from opioid overdoses every day in America, the addiction crisis continues to be a struggle for many, especially in rural communities. Evelina Sterling, assistant professor of sociology at Kennesaw State University, is tackling the epidemic of opioid abuse among pregnant women in rural communities, by finding ways to improve healthcare and legislative aid for them.

With a grant from the Georgia Health Foundation, Sterling will conduct qualitative research and a policy analysis, examining the barriers for treatment of pregnant opioid users in north Georgia. Over the course of a year, Sterling will work with Highland River Health based in north Georgia to establish base data.

“When you look at the epidemiological maps in terms of opioid use, you can track the usage from West Virginia and Kentucky to Tennessee with north Georgia as the next area to be affected,” said Sterling. “Although there are policies and guidelines in place to protect opioid users and encourage them to seek treatment, the pregnant opioid users are falling through the cracks because nobody is interpreting those policies in the same way.”

Her research will serve as a starting point to identify the barriers for pregnant women seeking help with addiction and then develop a list of recommendations to facilitate the appropriate processes in directing pregnant opioid users toward treatment options as quickly as possible.

Sterling’s research was funded by an $18,000 research grant from the Georgia Health Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to improving the health of all Georgia residents. The grant will be formally presented at the foundation’s annual award luncheon on Dec. 6.

– Andrea Judy

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