The change is part of a concerted effort to keep pace with the evolving nature of the opioid crisis, whereby heroin and fentanyl are now the leading cause of unintentional overdose death in the U.S. — not prescribed pain medications.
In addition, the new name provides an opportunity to expand research efforts to include the study of co-morbid health conditions and poly-substance misuse, incorporating studies focused on the resurgence of methamphetamine use across the country.
“The country has been reeling from the impact of the opioid crisis and taking action to mitigate resulting harm,” Dr. Robert Pack, ASC executive director, said. “However, while federal, state and local public health systems and services were finally focused on opioids, psychostimulant-related harm increased dramatically. We have been working on that problem and many related topics over the last few years and decided to adopt a simpler name that would also reflect the broader nature of our work.”
The ASC works in collaboration with the multi-sector community-facing working group that has been meeting both on and off-campus to address the regional opioid crisis since 2012. As a result of this partnership, the ASC, affiliated faculty and community partners have submitted 44 grant proposals, 19 of which have been funded for a total of $7.5 million dollars in extramural funding.
The ASC team presents to groups across the state, region and nation to disseminate the results of their research and provide information about interventions that can save lives.
In addition to being awarded the United States Public Health Service Award for Excellence in Interprofessional Education in 2018, Pack and ASC Research Director Dr. Nicholas Hagemeier have served on a number of national committees aimed at improving public health policy, such as the United States Pain Management Best Practices Inter-Agency Task Force, the Association of Schools & Programs of Public Health Task Force on Public Health Initiatives to Address the Opioid Crisis, and the Appalachian Regional Commission’s Substance Use Advisory Council.