AUBURN, Ala. – The Opioid Training Institute (OTI), a collaborative program offered by the Auburn University Harrison School of Pharmacy (HSOP) and the Alabama Department of Mental Health (ADMH), will conduct a training session in Cullman Wednesday, July 24. The session is offered at no cost to attendees and is targeted toward leaders in the community who would like to learn more about fighting the opioid epidemic.
The program will be held at the Cullman Civic Center at 510 Fifth St. SW and will run from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Walk-in attendees will be accepted, but participants are encouraged to pre-register by visiting www.AlabamaOTI.org.
“We know that many factors led to Alabama’s unfortunate position as a leader in opioid use in the United States. Accordingly, we know that a variety of strategies are necessary to address the opioid problem in Alabama,” said Dr. Brent Fox, associate professor with the Harrison School of Pharmacy. “The Opioid Training Institute will allow us to convene a diverse group of experiences, expertise and perspectives to advance the fight against opioids in our state.”
Alabama is one of the most affected states in the country when it comes to the opioid crisis. In 2017, there were 422 overdose deaths involving either prescription or illicit drugs in the state, an average of more than one per day.
To battle such a crisis, it requires a collaborative and interprofessional effort. With that in mind, the HSOP and the ADMH partnered to create the OTI.
The workshop is targeted to community members and leaders including, but not limited to, educators, social workers, guidance counselors, behavioral health specialists, counselors, faith-based community leaders, state and local leaders and law enforcement.
“Due to positions in their communities, community leaders can play a pivotal role in addressing the opioid crisis by using strategies that are relevant to the local community,” said Fox. “The OTI will focus on equipping community leaders with practical information they can use in their local communities.”
The opioid epidemic is one that knows no neighborhood, class or age and impacts every sector of the state, including health care, education, business and local government. Opioids are a class of drugs that includes heroin as well as prescription pain relievers such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, morphine and fentanyl. These drugs work by binding to the body’s opioid receptors in the reward center of the brain, diminishing pain as well as producing feelings of relaxation and euphoria.
“Community leaders can expect to expand their knowledge of the opioid crisis. They will also learn how to identify potential situations of drug abuse and the role of opioid reversal agents,” said Fox. “While prevention is critical to reversing the opioid trend in Alabama, treatment of those with substance use disorder is just as important. Attendees will learn about treatment options and other resources to support those with substance abuse problems.”
Because of the variety of uses, one could come into contact with opioids from street drugs to prescription drugs. The problem is one that affects all socio-economic statuses. It is for this reason that such a broad spectrum of people, from health care to law enforcement to leaders in the community, are needed to fight the problem.
“Opioid use disorder impacts those from the teen years to the older populations in our state. In 2017, more than 47,000 Americans died of opioid overdoses and in Alabama we see the need for education to reach everyone that may have the power to evoke change for our communities,” said Dr. Karen Marlowe, assistant dean of the HSOP. “Understanding the risk factors for opioid use disorder and overdose in your school, community, place of worship may help someone to connect with the appropriate resources in their community. We also hope to start more conversations across different professions to share information about programs that already exist in communities across the state.”
All sessions are free and pre-registration is preferred. Speakers at the event include those from health care, law enforcement, government agencies and others. For health care professionals, continuing education credit is available.
“Mental health is an important piece in the fight against the opioid crisis and partnering with the Alabama Department of Mental Health allows us to combine our areas of expertise and have a greater reach in the state of Alabama,” said Dr. Haley Phillippe, associate clinical professor with the HSOP. “We are very thankful for the opportunity to work with ADMH.”
For more information and registration, visit AlabamaOTI.org.