KU addiction center ready to help people recover

photo by: Kathy Hanks

Rich Yi stands by the work of John Sebelius, artist-in-residence at the Cofrin-Logan Center for Addiction Research and Treatment, on Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2018.

The smell of new carpet was in the air at the Cofrin-Logan Center, a suite of rooms on the third floor of the Dole Human Development Center on the University of Kansas campus.

The waiting area was empty. But Rich Yi, the center’s director, knows that will change.

It just takes time. After all, the Cofrin-Logan Center for Addiction Research and Treatment was established just this summer, thanks to a $2 million gift from Daniel Logan, who graduated from KU in 1975, and his wife, Gladys Cofrin.

Yi arrived in Kansas in late August. In this newly created position, Yi has been developing plans with his staff, which includes a clinical psychologist, addiction counselors and research scientists.

“We have been doing a lot in the past month,” Yi said. “We’re getting there. It’s taking shape.”

The center’s focus will be research, treatment and training, Yi said.

About a year ago, Carl Lejuez, who is now KU’s interim provost, reached out to Yi about heading the addiction center. The two men had once worked together at the Center for Addictions, Personality, and Emotion Research at the University of Maryland.

Now, the center is up and running and reaching out to the community, Yi said.

The center’s outreach began in September as it partnered with the Lawrence Public Library to offer free addiction recovery sessions.

Bruce Liese, the center’s clinical director, set up the program and is working with a group of trained facilitators to provide support through the program known as Smart Recovery.

“The center has been a dream come true,” Liese said. “There really isn’t a service like this; a combination of research and treatment programs is rare around the country. Our center is nicely funded to offer free services.

“Instead of waiting for the clinic to be fully opened, we are reaching out to stakeholders throughout the county and offering our services.”

Lejuez did the early development work for the center before Yi was hired, and he now serves as the center’s senior scientist.

“I write grants, publish in scientific journals and develop new behavioral treatments for addictions,” Lejuez said.

The center’s assistant director, Tera Fazzino, has specialized in researching alcohol addiction and binge eating and the consequences on college students.

Because the suite of rooms has enough space, Yi said they might build a bar lab.

“We will create space for research on alcohol self-administration,” Yi said. “If we can build a space that looks like a bar, we will have a natural environment for people to drink.”

However, he added, they will need the approval of the university.

“There are a lot of hurdles, but if we can get it, we can create a controlled environment where we can measure drinking, how much, how fast and the circumstances in which they drink,” Yi said.

In the bar lab, they could do controlled studies, learning the circumstances where drinking contributes to eating or eating contributes to drinking. Plus, Yi said, it would tie in with Fazzino’s research on the overlapping of binge drinking and eating.

Another service involves an artist-in-residence project with local artist John Sebelius offering art therapy sessions for veterans at the center.

“In the general public, the perception is that art therapy is touchy-feely, getting in touch with your feelings sort of stuff,” Yi said. “What he does is give them the tools, the equipment and puts on music they like.”

A year from now, Yi envisions a lobby bustling with people.

“Who is in the waiting room will depend on what time of day,” Yi said. “During the weekday business hours, it will be filled with research participants.”

They may be there for research on cigarette smoking or cognitive training. After-hours, there would be more families or individuals coming for therapy.

Then, if they get the approval, later in the night, there will be college students — willing participants for the bar lab research.


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