Arkansas Children’s Hospital in the US is establishing the National Center for Opioid Research & Clinical Effectiveness (NCOR) with a $70m investment, which includes a $50m grant from the state’s Attorney General Tim Griffin.

The centre aims to address the impact of the opioid crisis on foetuses, newborns, and developing children.

It will focus on innovative prevention methods, therapies, and advanced imaging technology to study how opioids affect children’s developing brains.

Arkansas Children’s president and CEO Marcy Doderer said: “The opioid crisis has devastated Arkansas families and we see the impact in our NICU, clinics, and ER every day.

“By creating this centre, we are accelerating a healthier future for the children of Arkansas.

“The brilliant capacity of the team already on the ground, and those we will recruit, will create a better today and healthier tomorrow for the unbelievable number of children who suffer in the opioid crisis’ wake.”

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Opioids were identified as the leading cause of poisoning deaths in children aged below five years nationwide and have particularly affected Arkansas. The state holds the second-highest opioid dispensing rate in the US.

The latest initiative also plans to tackle neonatal abstinence syndrome and opioid-related challenges in pregnant women and newborns.

Arkansas Children’s, known for its expertise in neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome, will leverage its partnerships and collaborations to implement findings directly into the community, aiming to reduce opioid use and abuse.

Construction of the 45,000ft² facility is expected to start in 2024.

Griffin said: “Arkansas Children’s is a nationally renowned leader in paediatric health care and, as such, is an ideal partner in the effort to reduce and eliminate the devastation that opioid abuse has caused in our state and across our country.

“The establishment of this centre represents a significant investment in prevention, care, and research that will benefit all Arkansans regardless of their address.”