Racial & Ethnic Disparities in the Opioid Crisis: A Perspective from SAMHSA's Office of Behavioral Health Equity

 Dr. Larke Huang with panelists: Dr. Lara Coughlin & Dr. Allison Lin


Equity Upstream Lecture 4: (June 14, 2023)

This virtual lecture by Dr. Larke Huang is the fourth and final training in the Equity Upstream Spring 2023 Lecture Series that Mid-State Health Network (MSHN) developed to increase awareness and understanding of health disparities in the national overdose epidemic. The Equity Upstream initiative focuses on upstream structural issues—systemic racism, implicit bias, access barriers and others—and seeks to catalyze action to increase equity in Substance Use Disorder (SUD) services, access, quality of care and outcomes for historically underserved  populations. Focusing on priorities and equity initiatives relative to the opioid epidemic from SAMHSA and the Office of Behavioral Health Equity, Dr. Huang’s presentation took place on June 14th, 2023, via Zoom from Washington, D.C., and was followed by a panel discussion with University of Michigan researchers, Dr. Lara Coughlin and Dr. Allison Lin.


Larke Nahme Huang, PhD, is a Senior Advisor in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use and Director of the Office of Behavioral Health Equity (OBHE). She is a licensed clinical psychologist who has worked at the interface of policy, research and practice in behavioral health for nearly 35 years. As the Director of OBHE, Dr. Huang provides leadership to advance equity and eliminate disparities in behavioral health for underserved, minoritized communities and to ensure an equity agenda in SAMHSA programs and policies. She implements innovative efforts to advance health equity based on metrics of access, quality and outcomes of care for underserved, diverse populations, elevating a focus on strengthening community-level efforts and the consideration of social determinants of health. During her previous fourteen years at SAMHSA, she provided national leadership and guidance on mental health and substance use policy and program issues for children and families; developed grant programs at state and local levels to advance prevention, treatment and resiliency in communities; identified strategic opportunities and developed interagency collaborations to advance behavioral health in program and funding plans within other federal departments, including the Departments of Justice, Labor, and Education; developed and advanced trauma-informed approaches to treatment and recovery; and coordinated SAMHSA’s programs geared to reducing the justice system involvement of people with behavioral health disorders. Prior to coming to SAMHSA, she was on faculty at the University of California, Berkeley, and Georgetown University, was a managing director at the American Institutes for Research and was a clinical practitioner in community mental health. She has served on Presidential Commissions and non-profit boards, has published widely, and has received numerous awards.


Lara Coughlin, PhD is a licensed clinical psychologist and an Assistant Professor at the University of Michigan Addiction Center in the Department of Psychiatry. Her research focuses on developing and adapting interventions to improve outcomes for those with substance use disorders based on behavioral economic frameworks. Her research aims to improve access to empirically based substance use disorder (SUD) prevention and treatments, especially in underserved populations. Her areas of interest include SUD treatment and in particular development of  SUD treatment strategies (like contingency management) based on behavioral economic frameworks, using adaptive interventions to improve substance use disorder outcomes, CBT, motivational interviewing and improving access to treatments for rural and other underserved populations.


Allison Lin, MD, is an addiction psychiatrist and Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry as well as Research Scientist at the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System. Dr. Lin is also Director of the U-M Addiction Psychiatry Fellowship Program, President of the Michigan Society of Addiction Medicine, Co-Director of the Michigan Opioid Collaborative and 
American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry Research Committee Chair. Her research is informed by her clinical work treating patients with addiction and recognizing the potential for  healthcare systems to help address this major public health crisis. Her research focuses on identifying actionable contributors, gaps and disparities in access and quality of addiction care using large healthcare datasets and developing new interventions and models of care, including through use of telehealth, to improve reach and delivery of evidence-based care to patients.


Other Lectures in the Series

Camara Jones, MD, MPH, PhD – When Systems Damage People: Anti-Racism Lessons for Battling the Opioid Epidemic (2022-2023 Leverhulme Professor in Global Health & Social Medicine, King's College, London)

Haner Hernandez, PhD, CPS, CADCII, LADCI –​ Building Health Equity: A Social Justice Approach to the Opioid Epidemic in Hispanic/Latiné Communities (Master Trainer, Addiction Technology Transfer Center) & panelists: Dr. Isabel Montemayor-Vazquez, Feliz Rodriguez, & José Salinas

Donald Warne, MD, MPH –​​​​ Culturally Based Approaches to Addiction & Recovery in Indigenous Communities (Director, John Hopkins’ Center for Indigenous Health) & panelists: David Garcia, Hunter Genia, & Anna Winters