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The opioid crisis continues to challenge many of our communities—three people die every day from an opioid overdose in North Carolina.  I blogged about it back in June after Jill Moore had asked me to introduce Attorney General Josh Stein as the kick-off speaker on the subject at the Local Health Directors’ Legal Conference.  In that post I asked if there was a role for the School in helping to address the opioid problem.  A number of our colleagues have stepped forward to do something and this post summarizes what they are doing.

The School is launching “an intensive two-year collaborative learning model that will provide direct support to ten North Carolina communities interested in enacting an integrated and innovative policy and practice response to their local opioid crises.”  The project is supported by $390,000 in funding from BlueCross BlueShield of North Carolina, and it would not be possible without leadership and support from the School’s new applied public policy initiative, ncIMPACT.

In a nutshell, the School will select teams from ten communities composed of representatives of government agencies and non-governmental organizations.  Teams must have at least one county represented, and they may apply as individual county teams, municipal-county partnerships, or a multi-county collaborative.  The School will conduct five regional forums for the teams over two years to form goals, measures, and implementation plans to reduce the impact of the opioid problem in their communities.  The teams will collaborate across fields and jurisdictions, and they will be supported in multiple ways by School faculty and outside experts.  Each team will receive $20,000 ($10,000 to hire a project manager and $10,000 in implementation funds).  In addition to on-the-ground work in the ten communities, School faculty will create an online resource and regional forums so that other communities can learn from the experience of the project teams.

I encourage you to visit the School’s microsite for much more information about the project, including the underlying principle of collective impact that is guiding the work.  It is fascinating and you should check it out—partly because you may see a way to become involved.  The application deadline is April 6, and 54 counties participated in a webinar last week to learn more about the project.  Please share this information with any of your clients whom you think might be interested in this program—contact Emily Gangi if you have any questions.

Let me emphasize several key elements that are reflected in the opioid project.

Greater collaboration among faculty members.  One recommendation from the strategic foresight process was to encourage greater collaboration among faculty members.  A core team of faculty members from different areas have volunteered to work on this project.  Kim Nelson (local government management and leadership) is the faculty lead, and the team also includes Adam Lovelady (land use law and planning), Jill Moore (public health law), and Anita Brown-Graham (ncIMPACT).  The opioid crisis is not the only multi-disciplinary challenge facing North Carolina communities, and I hope that this project will inspire us to develop other faculty collaborations over time.

Key role of ncIMPACT.  Greater collaboration among faculty on policy issues is difficult without a strong framework of conceptual, administrative, and operational support.  ncIMPACT provides that infrastructure and support.  This project illustrates exactly the kind of collaborative approach we envisioned for ncIMPACT in leveraging the work of our faculty to help communities use data and evidence to find solutions for complex public problems.  That is why it is one of our top strategic and fundraising priorities.  Emily Gangi is ncIMPACT’s Engagement Director, and she is the project manager for the opioid project.  The School’s team also will be supported by Dave Brown, ncIMPACT’s Research Director.

One School.  This project illustrates beautifully the way in which our working together as One School makes it possible to do great things for North Carolina.  No single individual could have made this project happen—not even close. There was an important early brainstorming meeting that involved a wide range of faculty and professional staff.  Jen Willis and the development team helped to create the grant and work with BlueCross Blue Shield, and Sonja Matanovic and the strategic communications team have worked on many aspects of the project from the beginning.  The IT team was involved in creating the microsite and in supporting last week’s webinar.  More people have been involved or will be involved as the project goes forward—the business office, program managers, and undoubtedly many others.

Thank you to everyone who has been involved in the development and support of this project, and to everyone who will step up as it unfolds.  This is the kind of team project that allows the School to realize its greatest potential in addressing the challenges facing North Carolina.  A great team of professionals operating as One School with optimism and idealism.




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