Ohio is considered "ground zero" for the opioid epidemic devastating the nation. There were 3,050 deaths in Ohio due to opioids in 2015, ranking Ohio number one in the nation. With an office located in all 88 Ohio counties, OSU Extension is uniquely positioned to address the prevention of opioid abuse statewide.
"Opioid addiction is a community and family problem; and because OSU Extension works directly with communities and families as part of our outreach mission, we are positioned to help people understand how they can contribute to helping take on this challenge," said Ken Martin, chair, Department of Extension, and associate director, programs. Martin is leading a work group to determine specific efforts of OSU Extension to address the issue and brainstorm ideas for programs Extension can lead, and partnerships Extension can help to forge across campus and beyond. For example, Extension and the College of Pharmacy are already collaborating to expand utilization of the Generation Rx program in communities across Ohio. Generation Rx focuses on promoting wise use and preventing misuse of prescription drugs.
OSU Extension is also partnering with Ohio State's colleges of Public Health, Social Work, Nursing, and Medicine to combat the opioid epidemic.
"In addition to expanding and enhancing the numerous existing tools, resources and programs that can be readily implemented in communities statewide, OSU Extension will also work to build community coalitions to take this issue on as a health challenge," said Martin. Extension has already engaged several external partners including Governor’s Cabinet Opiate Action Team, Mental Health and Addiction Services, and the Ohio Attorney General’s Office. These are likely to result in joint projects as well.
Campus Conversation on the Opioid Crisis
The 21st Century Cures Act has earmarked millions of dollars to address the opiate crisis. Many individuals and units across The Ohio State University campus believe as Extension does that Ohio State has much to contribute to the state’s effort to address this crisis. But our work may not be as well coordinated as it could be. A Campus Conversation on the Opioid Crisis was held on January 30 to learn about the many ways Ohio State is already involved (from prevention to intervention and treatment) and develop a plan for coordinating these efforts to address opiate addiction in communities across Ohio, including our own community here on campus. Several keynote speakers in the morning provided information about various aspects of the opioid epidemic; while small-group conversations in the afternoon related to the various dimensions of the issue – from prevention to treatment. Another goal was developing an inventory of how participants are already involved in addressing the opioid issue.
OSU Extension County Efforts
Many counties in southern Ohio are especially challenged by the opioid crisis. Many Extension educators are already involved in local coalitions and task forces that are actively providing drug use and abuse education, resources for those in addiction recovery, and evolving ways to treat family issues caused by addiction. Conversations similar to the Campus Conversation are highly encouraged at the local level to coordinate efforts between community partners and address issues that are often specific to a particular locale. One example was the Franklin County Opiate Summit held on March 22.
Health Outreach through Extension
OSU Extension is implementing a CAPE (Community Assessment and Education to Promote Behavioral Health Planning and Evaluation) grant to conduct Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training for Extension staff and community members. MHFA focuses on identification of early warning signs of mental illness and making referrals for assistance. See the CAPE training brochure for more information.
OSU Extension and the Center for Public Health Practice at Ohio State are making plans to fund a public health specialist position, which would focus significant attention on opioid addiction, recovery, prevention and public education. This specialist will be based in Piketon and work with several of the surrounding counties.