Substance Use Disorder & Behavioral Health

Our national experts in addiction medicine lead the way in research that informs guidelines on the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of substance use disorder. Here at the Primary Care Research Institute (PCRI), we conduct research to promote integration of primary care and behavioral health care, improve patients’ self-management, and reduce avoidable hospitalizations and readmissions. 

PCRI supports a diverse portfolio of research and evaluation projects addressing substance use disorder, such as community-based projects to improve access and retention in substance use disorder treatment, including medications for opioid use disorder, and harm reduction programs. Our research spans a broad array of settings, including primary care practices, academic teaching hospitals, behavioral health agencies, drug treatment courts, and community-based outreach sites. These settings, along with enduring partnerships with community and governmental organizations, offer an extensive laboratory for relevant clinical and implementation science research.

In addition, we direct one of the first ACGME-accredited Addiction Medicine fellowship programs in the nation. In our ongoing efforts to expand addiction medicine training for future physicians, we develop innovative, hands-on training opportunities for our Addiction Medicine fellows to treat the biological and behavioral changes triggered by substance use.

Most patients with behavioral health concerns present first to their primary care provider. A substantial portion of our research is also devoted to behavioral healthcare, and our research addresses the complex needs of people with comorbid medical and mental health concerns. Practicing in diverse clinical settings, our Family Medicine physicians provide evidence-based care for people with behavioral and medical conditions.  Our department also has a long tradition of coordinated care between primary care practitioners and behavioral health clinicians and maintaining strong partnerships with academic psychiatry and community mental health agencies. 

Current Research Projects

  • A Rigorous Evaluation of the Opioid Intervention Court Strategy- A Public Health Response
    This project aims to rigorously compare the treatment, health, recovery, and justice outcomes of participants in the Opioid Intervention Court (OIC) to those in a traditional drug treatment court. Results from this study will answer key questions related to the translation of the nation’s first “public health court” and will inform future practice and policy to address the ongoing opioid crisis by infusing public health into the public safety and justice system.
  • Evidence Based Case Management Initiative for Adult Drug Treatment Courts in Erie County
    This project enhances case management capacity to accelerate linkage to MAT services and trauma informed services, particularly for those with substance use disorders and co-occurring mental illness which are often common in low-income minority communities. We employ the MISSION-CJ (Maintaining Independence and Sobriety through Systems Integration, Outreach, and Networking - Criminal Justice) recovery support model. 
  • Healthy Cattaraugus County: A Drug-Free Community Coalition
    The primary goal of this grant is to reduce substance use among youth and, over time, reduce substance abuse among adults by addressing the factors in a community that increase the risk of substance abuse and promoting the factors that minimize the risk of substance abuse. We will accomplish this by strengthening collaboration among communities, public and private non-profit agencies, and federal, state, local, and tribal governments to support the efforts of community coalitions working to prevent and reduce substance use among youth.
  • Healthy Cattaraugus County: Sober Truth on Preventing (STOP) Underage Drinking Act Grant
    Serving as an extension to the strategic action plan of the Drug-Free Community Coalition grant, funds for this project will be used to prevent and reduce alcohol use among youth and adults aged 12-20 years. This grant seeks to reduce opportunities for underage drinking while also limiting access to alcohol and expanding enforcement opportunities.
  • High Risk Critical Time Intervention (CTI)
    Hope of Erie County will use a Critical Time Intervention (CTI) approach to coordinate care and services for justice involved individuals who are identified as high risk with regard to physical and behavioral health care needs (i.e., individuals with co-occurring and/or multiple morbidities). Hope of Erie County will work with clients to identify relevant focus areas, provide linkages to formal and informal support systems, and gradually taper back case management as linkages become stable and enduring. We expect this process will generate improved health outcomes, better integrated health care, and reduced institutionalization including incarceration and hospitalization.
  • Naloxone Expansion with Local First Responders and Emergency Department-initiated Care Coordination for People Who Use Opioids
    This project works to reduce the number of opioid overdose fatalities by training and supplying first responders and enhancing the connection of first responder rescues to follow-up treatment. The Erie County, NY Department of Health (ECDOH) conducts trainings for first responders and community members on naloxone administration and has distributed naloxone throughout Western New York through numerous channels, including trainings, a Text-for-Narcan line, and wall-mounted boxes that organizations and businesses can keep on their premises as an emergency supply of naloxone.
  • Primary Care Training and Enhancement: Training Primary Care Champions
    This program develops and implements an advanced training program for currently-practicing primary care providers to become leaders of health care transformation and education, with a special emphasis on population health approaches to addiction medicine.
  • Substance Use Disorders Reentry Initiative (SUDRI)
    BestSelf Behavioral Health will expand its treatment services in Erie County's two jails and provide community-based treatment services in a newly established reentry support center in downtown Buffalo called the Service Link Stop (SLS). The goal is to increase the number of participants receiving medication assisted treatment (MAT) as well as cognitive behavioral intervention-based SUD and reentry services. This initiative serves individuals who are released from jails as they transition back to the community, and pre-trial clients and probation clients from Erie County Probation who may have been briefly detained in regional lock-ups and then were released by the courts directly to probation.
  • The Erie County Early Diversion Enhancement Program for Adults with Co-Occurring Disorders
    This project seeks to enhance and expand an existing Erie County, NY Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) model for pre-booking diversion of adults with co-occurring disorders in partnership with police departments and treatment networks. We aim to increase the number of individuals experiencing a crisis due to serious mental illness who are diverted from the criminal justice system and towards community-based treatment resources, as well as the number of law enforcement officers trained in CIT practices. Diverted individuals receive long-term case management care, and behavioral health outcomes are tracked over the duration of their involvement with the program.
  • The Erie County Jail Co-occurring Enhancement Reentry Initiative
    This project adapts the MISSION-CJ evidence-based practice by fully integrating behavioral and medical treatment for jail inmates with criminogenic risk, and substance abuse and mental health needs.
  • The Erie County Law Enforcement & Mental Health Response Program
    This project centers around the planning and implementation of the enhancement and expansion of cross-system collaboration in Erie County to improve public safety responses and outcomes for individuals with mental health disorders or co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders who come into contact with the justice system.
  • The Mothers Justice Project
    This research project investigates the experiences of pregnant and parenting women who are also dealing with substance use disorder and justice system involvement. These women face multiple health-related and social structural challenges compounded by stigma. This study addresses the research gap by examining women’s experiences in the justice system in relation to motherhood and recovery from substance use. Findings from this initial exploratory study will be used to develop a larger NIH-funded study and to inform clinical practice and public health policy. 
  • The Opioid Intervention Court Expansion Project
    This project supports the expansion of capacity and access to an evidence-based care coordination model (MISSION-CJ with rapid MAT transport) in the Opioid Intervention Court. We also will expand the capacity of the court over five years.  
  • The UB Family Medicine Residency Training Program in Behavioral Health Improvement
    This five-year program aims to create an interprofessional team to train family medicine residents in the integration of behavioral health and primary care. Our enhanced training program emphasizes the implementation of screening, brief intervention, and referral to treatment (SBIRT) protocol into primary care clinical settings and expands both clinical and didactic learning experiences in behavioral health. We are preparing our residents to provide compassionate and evidence-based care to our local communities struggling with mental health and substance use in their critical role as family doctors.
  • Abdelsayed, Sarah

    Sarah Abdelsayed, MD

    Assistant Professor; Fellowship Program Director of Addiction Medicine

    UB Gateway Building Department of Family Medicine 77 Goodell Street, Suite 220HC Buffalo, NY 14203


  • Kahn, Linda

    Linda Kahn, PhD

    Research Professor, Primary Care Research Institute

    UB Gateway Building Department of Family Medicine 77 Goodell Street, Suite 220D Buffalo, NY 14203

    Phone: (716) 816-7254; Fax: (716) 845-6899


  • Singh, Ranjit

    Ranjit Singh, MB BChir, MBA

    Associate Professor; Vice Chair for Research, Director, Primary Care Research Institute

    UB Gateway Building Department of Family Medicine 77 Goodell Street, Suite 220L Buffalo, NY 14203

    Phone: (716) 816-7275; Fax: (716) 845-6899


  • Tumiel Berhalter, Laurene

    Laurene Tumiel Berhalter, PhD

    Director of Community Translational Research

    UB Downtown Gateway Department of Family Medicine 77 Goodell Street, Suite 220N Buffalo, NY 14203

    Phone: 716-816-7278; Fax: 716-845-6899


  • Vest, Bonnie

    Bonnie Vest, Ph,D.

    Research Associate Professor

    77 Goodell Street Suite 220 Buffalo, NY 14203

    Phone: 17168167287