OPTIC Pilot Projects

The Opioid Policy Tools and Information Center for Research Excellence (OPTIC) comprises a network of opioid policy researchers from RAND and collaborating institutions seeking to foster innovative research in opioid policy science. OPTIC pilot project awards provide a funding mechanism to nurture early-career investigators with innovative research concepts in the preliminary stages of development. The principal investigators of these projects may leverage OPTIC data and resources with data assets at their own institutions, extending the reach of OPTIC methods and data. OPTIC funds up to 3 pilot projects annually from 2019 to 2023. Pilot projects and principal investigators are featured below.


At the Intersection of an Epidemic and a Pandemic: Access to Buprenorphine Treatment for Opioid Use Disorder and State-Level Telehealth Policies

This project investigates the effects of more accessible telehealth policies on buprenorphine access, opioid-related mortalities and nonfatal overdoses, and differential equity effects within these outcomes.

Tamara Beetham, M.P.H.

Ph.D. Student, Department of Health Policy and Management, Yale University

Does Incomplete Compliance Affect the Effectiveness of Mandatory Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs?

This project examines the role of state-mandated queries to a Prescription Drug Monitoring Program in the decision to prescribe opioids using state-of-the-art methods and unique administrative data containing all queries and all opioid prescribing in the state of Kentucky from 2010 to 2020.

Colleen Carey, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Economics and Public Policy, Cornell University

Opioid-involved Violent Deaths: Racial Disparities and Relationships to Other Substances and Policies

This project examines relationships between substance use, state cannabis policies, and opioid involvement among victims of violent death by race/ethnicity and type of violent death using data from the National Violent Death Reporting System.

Marlene C. Lira, M.P.H.

Senior Research Manager, Boston Medical Center


Marijuana Laws and Opioid Mitigation Policies: Better Together than Apart?

This study investigates the combined direct and interactive effects of opioid and cannabis policies on three outcomes: opioid prescription rates; adverse opioid outcome rates; and the overall mortality rates associated with licit and illicit opioid-related overdoses.

Ashley C. Bradford, M.P.A.

Ph.D. Student, School of Public and Environmental Affairs, Indiana University

COVID-19 Pandemic Control Measures’ Impact on Fatal Opioid Overdoses in the U.S.

This project uses rapidly available mortality data to measure the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and pandemic control policies on fatal opioid overdoses in the United States.

Chelsea L. Shover, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor-in-Residence, UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine

State Policies and Changes in Maternal OUD Treatment-Seeking Behaviors

States continue to enact a variety of policies to curb prenatal substance use, but it is not well-understood how these overlapping and potentially countervailing policy approaches impact the treatment-seeking behaviors of pregnant women and mothers struggling with opioid use disorder (OUD). This project explores the relationship between punitive and treatment-supportive state policies and changes in treatment-seeking behaviors among publicly-insured pregnant women with OUD.

Rachel Keller Landis, M.P.P.

Ph.D. Student, Milken Institute School of Public Health, The George Washington University


Leveraging Local Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System Data to Assess Adolescent Opioid Use in U.S. Urban Areas

This project examines the prevalence of heroin use, injection drug use, and non-medical prescription opioid use among 9th-12th graders in 17 U.S. cities. Data will come from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC’s) Local Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, a key resource for monitoring adolescent health and well-being.

Through this pilot project, Johnson submitted a manuscript that has been accepted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal. Johnson’s work on the pilot project informed the successful grant application to the CDC for her currently funded project titled, "Evaluation Services for the Maryland Overdose Data to Action Project."

Renee M. Johnson, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

The Broad Consequences of Opioid Prescribing Limits in West Virginia

This project uses an innovative, county-level identification strategy to isolate how prescription duration limit policy in West Virginia affects prescribing patterns, health care use, and morbidity and mortality outcomes. The project leverages a unique combination of three data assets: West Virginia Medicaid claims, death certificates, and poison control center call data.

Through this pilot project, Allen submitted a manuscript to a peer-reviewed journal. Allen’s work on the pilot project led a successful grant to continue and expand the research through a NIDA R21 titled, "Assessing the Impact of Opioid Prescription Duration Limits."

Lindsay Allen, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University

The Impact of Pill Mill Regulations in Texas on Opioid-Related Outcomes

This project examines how local-area implementation and enforcement of pain management clinic regulations in Texas affect the volume of opioid distribution, the volume and composition of opioid-related prescriptions, and the volume and price of heroin in local markets.

Through this pilot project, Axeen presented the work at an ASHEcon national meeting, applied for follow-on funding to expand the research, and is submitting a manuscript to a peer-reviewed journal.

Sarah Axeen, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Research, Department of Emergency Medicine, University of Southern California