The Maine Medical Center Research Institute and the University of Vermont have been awarded a $339,000 federal grant to study how stricter opioid prescribing laws have affected the health of people in northern New England.

The National Institutes of Health is funding the grant, which will examine the impact of 2016 laws passed by the Maine and Vermont legislatures that put strict limits on opioid prescribing, which was part of both states’ strategies to address the opioid crisis. Drug overdoses killed a record 418 people in Maine in 2017.

Dr. Kathleen Fairfield, of Maine Medical Center Research Institute, as well as Dr. Valerie Harder and Dr. Timothy Plante, both of the University of Vermont, will analyze the effectiveness of the legislation and whether there were unintended consequences, such as the laws causing greater heroin use.

“This research provides us the opportunity to study the impact of state laws regarding opioid prescribing while engaging with a wide variety of community members in real time,” Fairfield said in a statement. “We hope this work will help inform clinical care of patients, community-based interventions, future policy changes and additional research.”

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