The drug overdose rate in the Midwest continues to grow even as the rest of the nation decreases.

UNL researchers say it's because of the region's lack of available treatment. In Nebraska, someone trying treatment typically waits three months to more than a year, one of the worst delays in the nation.

"Nebraska for a long time had the lowest overdose rates in the country but overdose rates in the state are now up about 48%, it's the highest increase in the country, per capita basis, so we really thought we had missed this most recent problem and it turns out we didn't," Director of Rural Drug Addiction Research Center, Kirk Dombrowski said.

UNL plans on using the $11.85 million grant they have been recently awarded to establish a research center that understands and tackles drug addiction in the Midwest.

"Once we know a little bit better what we are up against in the Midwest, our goal is to create another core facility that will take what we are learning and translate that research into better clinical outcomes and try to work throughout the state to improve treatment options," Dombrowski said.

The study is expected to begin in August. The plan is to track 600 drug users in Nebraska, Missouri, Iowa and Kansas. Each one will be interviewed every six months.

Dombrowski says people may not realize that the problems we were facing with methamphetamine 20 years ago has not gone away.

"We are seeing higher meth rates now than ever and the combination with methamphetamine and with the new synthetic opioids like fentanyl are actually creating a huge rise in methamphetamine and stimulant related overdose deaths," Dombrowski said.

The grant lasts 5 years. UNL researchers are able to renew it up to two times, their hope is to stretch it to 15 years.

About 23 people are involved in this big research investment.