A high-beam effort to throw the spotlight on the dangers of opioid abuse and come up with answers for fighting the epidemic will be hosted by Wright State University.
On Oct. 16, an Ohio House task force chaired by Rep. Robert Sprague will convene at the Wright State Nutter Center beginning at 1:30 p.m. to learn what the community is doing to battle the drug crisis. Then, beginning at 4 p.m., the Nutter Center will host a summit supporting a new initiative by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
The DEA initiated the DEA 360 Strategy last year and implemented it in four cities struggling with the opioid crisis. The agency announced in July that Dayton would be among the next four cities.
Joseph Keferl, dean of Wright State’s College of Education and Human Services, said the DEA has recognized that partnering with affected communities is a crucial part of battling opioid and prescription drug abuse.
“You can’t arrest your way out of the opioid crisis or stop supply completely,” said Keferl. “This epidemic is so much larger than anything we’ve had to deal with before.”
Wright State pulled together a team of stakeholders in April — which included educator-experts from a number of various disciplines — and met with DEA officials to discuss and plan the initiative.
“The university has a lot of expertise and deep partnerships,” said Keferl. “Wright State prides itself in having strong partnerships with surrounding communities. There are so many entities working to impact the epidemic, save lives and rebuild families and communities. What makes this important is being able to have access to federal resources and priorities, and to be an active partner in these catalyst efforts.”
The Task Force on Heroin, Opioids, Prevention, Education and Safety (H.O.P.E.S.) has been traveling around the state to gather information and legislative policy ideas.
“To get a better idea of how to put an end to this tragic issue, we must hear from the people who are managing this issue on the ground level in Ohio’s communities,” said Sprague.
The DEA’s three-pronged strategy involves cracking down on drug-traffickers, pushing for responsible prescribing by the medical community and partnering with community leaders to educate the public about the dangers of opioid abuse and guide them to treatment services.
“They’re not coming in and telling us what to do. They’re coming in and wanting to listen and help those partners become even more focused,” said Keferl. “They’re trying to figure out how to best support things that are working in communities.”
Timothy J. Plancon, special agent in charge of the DEA’s Detroit Field Division, said the community outreach portion of the initiative is critical to its success.
“We need to work relentlessly to find ways to effectively communicate to our community members the risks and dangers of drug use if we are going to slow the rates of drug abuse, addiction, overdose and death over the long term,” said Plancon.
The Oct. 16 summit will feature speakers designed to educate the audience about opioid addiction and inspire them to help wage war against it. The target audience will be high school and college students, faculty members, law enforcement, first responders and community leaders.
Speakers will include Todd Crandell, founder of Racing for Recovery, an organization dedicated to preventing substance abuse and providing positive alternatives for those battling addiction. Crandell regularly competes in triathlons to bring awareness to his organization.
The summit will also include Joe Piersante, a DEA agent wounded in Afghanistan and the first DEA agent to receive the Secretary of Defense Medal for the Defense of Freedom. The musical guest will be Alexis Gomez, a Wright State graduate who gained popularity as a country singer on television’s “American Idol.”
During the summit, the Nutter Center concourse will be filled with vendors offering services and resources to prevent and treat opioid addiction.
Originally founded as a branch campus of The Ohio State University and Miami University, Wright State became an independent institution in 1967. It celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2017.