President Sharon Gaber is creating a task force focusing on the opioid epidemic at UT, aiming to tackle the issue not only on campus, but around the greater community.
Amy Thompson, a professor of public health, and Dean of the College of Nursing Linda Lewandowski will lead the committee, serving as co-chairs.
The group had their first meeting on March 15 on the Health Science Campus.
“I can’t stress enough the wonderful insight of our president to want to give resources and structure to this because it is a leading public health problem in this region,” Thompson said.
The purpose for last week’s meeting was to get an understanding of the current research relating to the epidemic in the different disciplines around UT and to begin organizing potential group collaborations and projects.
“When we had our meeting, over 40 people came from every discipline, from pharmacy to social work,” Thompson said. “When you take the opioid epidemic, there’s many ways to address it, it’s prevention, treatment, detection, recovery and families.”
Tavis Glassman, professor of public health and advocate for drug awareness, also attended the meeting. He stressed the importance that opioid addiction doesn’t discriminate. Anyone is at risk and anyone can be affected by it, and that is why the issue must be tackled from every direction.
“It was extremely impressive, and the reason I say that is it felt like there were 30 people all with expertise in the area, but all with very unique niches,” Glassman said.
Because of this, UT will help any student in need of assistance with opioid problems at UT’s main campus Counseling Center or the Detox Unit at UTMC.
Both Thompson and Lewandowski applied for a grant together to teach opioid abuse prevention in Toledo Public Schools. The committee hopes to collaborate with the City of Toledo’s coalition on the epidemic and reach out to the entire community, Thompson said.
The first follow-up meeting is at an Opioid Summit on April 10 on UT’s main campus. Leaders from the Ohio Department of Health and the governor’s office will include those in attendance, working with experts on the drug problem from all over UT.
Thompson and Lewandowski said they were impressed at how much Gaber’s “proactive charge” allowed the committee to start working toward solutions.
“There are many researchers, physicians and educators across the university working on issues related to the opioid crisis,” Gaber said. “Our goal is to bring all of these individuals together to ensure that we are collaborating to find solutions to this public health crisis across our region and state.”
Every faculty member on the committee stressed the importance of opioid prevention awareness, providing accessible aid for opioid addiction all over campus and the Toledo community, as well as reducing the stigmas around it, Thompson said. One of their goals is to fill gaps of services in the community they see surrounding the epidemic.
“We will begin to develop work teams of people, so we can start assigning things to do, projects to start and grants to apply for,” Thompson said.