(The Center Square) – Ohio plans to spend $20 million in taxpayer funds over the next 10 years to study the causes of depression, suicide and drug overdoses.
The research initiative, conducted with Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center and College of Medicine, along with several stat universities, is expected to study the role of biological, psychological, and social factors that underlie what officials call an epidemic.
The goal, according to Gov. Mike DeWine, is to identify root causes of persistent emotional distress, suicide and drug overdose throughout the state.
“Ohio must be the model in helping our citizens overcome or adapt to mental health challenges so that they improve mental and physical health, complete an education, attain a good-paying job, support a family, and contribute to our communities,” DeWine said in a statement. “We envision that the SOAR Study will jump-start future efforts to learn more about what Ohioans can do to better manage adversity and develop resilience.”
The Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, which is funding the project, says the state has seen a rise in mental illness, suicide and deaths related to drug overdose over the past decade. It believes the recent COVID-19 pandemic increased the problems.
Researchers will study people in their local communities, using an integrated “bring science to the people” approach. It will create a statewide medical research and development ecosystem with the hope being to drive continued advances in mental health and substance use prevention science and treatment interventions.
The Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations and Results study has two parallel but connected projects.
• Focusing on breadth, the SOAR Wellness Discovery Survey will engage as many as 15,000 people across all 88 Ohio counties. Researchers want to uncover how strengths and skills may be related to overcoming adversity. Those strengths will inform researchers about which factors to focus on to develop new treatments. This portion is under way with more than 300,000 postcards mailed out to residents statewide.
• Focusing on depth, the SOAR Brain Health Study will comprehensively study as many as 3,600 Ohioans in family groups to examine the biological, psychological, and social factors that help explain that relationship, such as who does well with adversity, who does not, and why. Those discoveries will help researchers develop personalized treatments.
“This important SOAR Study builds on our long-standing academic health mission, and we are proud to champion this vital research to help all Ohioans,” said Dr. John L. Warner, chief executive officer at Wexner. “Mental health care is health care, and this study will help us inform prevention and treatment strategies to advance patient-centered care and influence the way we train our future care providers.”