Ohio Colleges and Universities Work To Address Opioid Crisis

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Ohio Colleges and Universities Work To Address Opioid Crisis

By Beth Leipholtz 01/10/18

Some of the state's schools have put together task forces, innovation funds and tech programs to do their part in curbing the crisis.

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college students walking around on campus

As the opioid epidemic has been declared a national emergency and has hit Ohio fairly hard, with 4,300 drug overdose deaths in 2016, some higher educational institutions in the state are doing what they can to put a stop to the growing crisis. 

Ohio University is one such institution. Last year, according to The Alliance Review, a task force called Athens HOPE was launched at the university. The group confronts the opioid epidemic through prevention and education by bringing together a variety of leaders, including those in health fields, recovery services personnel, local government, law enforcement and other community leaders.

The hope is that by coming together, the group can educate and create a community that can better serve those in recovery. 

“We’ve really made it a focus, just because the issue is so incredibly profound,” Randy Leite, Dean of Ohio University’s College of Health and Sciences and Professions at Ohio University, told The Alliance Review. “We have, I would say, a moral obligation to try to respond to it.” 

Additionally, Ohio University is sponsoring a team in the Ohio Opioid Technology Challenge, which is a state program that offers money in exchange for ideas to put a stop to the growing epidemic. 

Another institution taking action in the state is Ohio State University. In 2017, the institution announced it would be establishing a Drug Enforcement and Policy Center to “support and promote interdisciplinary research, scholarship, education, community outreach and public engagement on the societal impacts surrounding legal reforms that prohibit or regulate the use and distribution of traditionally illicit drugs.”

Last fall, the college also introduced the Opioid Innovation Fund, which provides more than $1 million in grants to faculty and students at Ohio State. They are invited to submit proposals that aim to reduce the effects of the opioid crisis. 

According to the college’s website, the Opioid Innovation Fund “is designed to bring together multiple, available resources and leverage existing partnerships (private and public) to develop programs/initiatives that will achieve measurable, positive impacts to reduce the burden of the opioid crisis.”  

Though not yet as invested, other colleges in the state are also hoping to get on board in fighting the opioid epidemic. Otterbein University is working to submit a grant proposal that would raise awareness about the misuse of prescription drugs, about which Capital University has held some information sessions and panels made up of community partners. 

According to Leite, colleges and universities should be doing everything in their power to offer what solutions they can when it comes to this growing issue. 

“Everyone knows it’s a problem,” Leite told The Review. “Higher education should be a part of the solution. If we’re not part of solving the state’s problems, we’re not achieving our fullest potential.” 

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