Dr. Marian Wilson
Marian Wilson, Assistant Professor, WSU College of Nursing

A Spokane-area foundation named for a young man who died of a drug overdose is funding two projects led by WSU College of Nursing Assistant Professor Marian Wilson. 

One of the projects supported by the Rayce Rudeen Foundation will give low-income patients access to non-opioid pain management tools such as physical therapy, chiropractic care, massage and yoga. The other will test whether “smart-home” monitoring tools can help people with opioid use disorder.

The Rayce Rudeen Foundation has committed a total of $15,000 to the two projects. The gift is the foundation’s first to Washington State University.

“We have a broken system and we want to help fix it,” said Nadalie Malsam, president of the foundation and Rayce Rudeen’s cousin. “We’re investing funds to address gaps in the system; we want to pilot alternatives, because clearly what we as a society are doing isn’t working.”

Wilson said the first project, on non-opioid approaches to pain management, grew out of discussions in a subgroup of the Spokane Regional Opioid Task Force. That group includes alternative practitioners such as chiropractors and naturopaths.

“We want to help people access things we know would be helpful and are not covered by insurance,” Wilson said. Wilson’s team will work with a primary care clinic to identify patients who might benefit from non-opioid pain management, then make those treatments available to the patients. The study will examine the best way to introduce non-opioid alternatives to patients, and whether patients use them and find them helpful. Wilson said the four techniques chosen all have been shown to be effective in previous studies.

The second project is still in planning stages, but it will “test some of the ideas we have for home monitoring of people with opioid use disorder,” Wilson said.

Rayce Rudeen, of Spokane, was 26 when he died of an accidental drug overdose in 2016. His family established the foundation in his honor the next year.

Malsam said she was introduced to Wilson through the Greater Spokane Substance Abuse Council.

“I thought what Marian had to say was valuable, and I liked the innovation involved,” Malsam said of her foundation’s decision to make its largest one-time grant to Wilson’s projects. “Partnering with an institution like WSU is an honor because you have all the tools to take this research to the next level. If we can support that in even a small way, that’s really great for us.”

Wilson said the two initiatives could serve as demonstration projects for future grant funding.

–Story by Addy Hatch