Southern Illinois University School of Medicine and the University of Chicago Medicine will use a $1.13 million federal grant to study the opioid epidemic affecting the state’s 16 southernmost counties.

The joint effort will initially focus on learning how and why people use opioids such as heroin, fentanyl and prescription painkillers for non-medical reasons and examine the impact on health. People with opioid use disorder, particularly those who inject the drugs, are more vulnerable to outbreaks of HIV, hepatitis and other infections.

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