The Opioid Epidemic- Resources for Policy Makers

Policy makers may find the following resources especially helpful in educating themselves about the opioid crisis in preparation for related decision making.

 Unburying the Lead: Public Health Tools are the Key to Beating the Opioid Epidemic
Brookings Institute, 2018.

Following the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis report, Brookings Institute released an analysis that provides follow-up, public-health oriented action steps that correspond to the opioid commission recommendations. See the table on page 3 of the report that provides the commission recommendations and Brookings action steps. Broadly, Brookings suggests overlaying public health approaches to the recommendations, with the approaches spanning prevention, criminal justice, housing and employment. Useful action steps with implications for research, policy, and practice. 


Pain in the Nation: The Drug, Alcohol and Suicide Epidemics and the Need for a National Resilience Strategy
Trust for America's Health, 2017.

Death from drugs, alcohol, and suicide could account for 1.6 million fatalities over the coming decade. In light of these projections, the report calls for development of a national resilience strategy that takes a comprehensive approach focusing on prevention, early identification of issues, and effective treatment. The report website provides an interactive data tool for tracking reported and projected changes in death rates, and state-level data.


Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General's Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health
U.S. Department of Human Services, 2016.

This landmark report recommends a public health approach to addressing addiction, recognizing that relying solely on a criminal justice approach is unlikely to stem issues related to addiction. It further identifies that addiction is not a moral failing, but instead is a health issue brought about by changes in the brain. This report includes a full, well-written chapter on prevention recommendations. 


Steps We Can Take to Prevent Opioid Abuse (Letter to the Editor)
Gilbert J. Botvin, developer of LifeSkills Training, 2016.

New York Times article addressing the opioid epidemic regarding the need for effective prevention programs that can dramatically decrease drug abuse, delinquency, aggression and violence. Some of the specific programs mentioned include LifeSkills Training (LST), Strengthening Families Program (SFP) & Communities That Care (CTC). The letter suggests an increased emphasis on prevention in combating the growing epidemic of prescription opioid abuse.

This article serves as a good reminder to policy makers that treatment is not the only answer to the opioid epidemic. Prevention programs are key to targeting the issue before it begins. Many programs provide years of research on proving positive outcomes on the specific issues involved in what has become an opioid epidemic.


Best Practices for For Effective Prevention Programming
EPIS, Pennsylvania State University, 2016.

This fact sheet highlights the core components of effective prevention strategies, as well as what has been shown to be ineffective. It specifically mentions scare tactics, reducing risk and program delivery.

Policy Makers can use this fact sheet when making decisions on what specific programs should be supported based on what prevention strategies are shown to be effective and ineffective for youth outcomes.
The Commonwealth Prevention Alliance Campaign To Stop Opiate Abuse website

Campaign funded through a grant from the PA Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD). A workgroup of partners has developed free materials about opiate addiction for D&A professionals to download and distribute, as well as information and resources for anyone looking for HELP. PA Stop is designed to educate Pennsylvanians about the risks of prescription painkiller and heroin use, the relationship between painkiller and heroin use, and what to do when you need help.

Policy makers can access this website to obtain free materials to download/distribute in order to educate their communities about risks of prescription painkillers and heroin use, the relationship between both, and what to do if you need help. These materials can be great resources in aiding in the development of a prevention campaign.


LifeSkills Training Shields Teens from Prescription Opioid Misuse
Eric Sarlin, M.Ed., M.A., NIDA Notes Contributing Writer, 2015.

Discusses the effectiveness of LST for substance abuse prevention; including opioids.  Evaluates the impact of LST and two other school-based interventions- All Stars (AS) and Project Alert (PA)- on teens’ prescription opioid misuse. It specifically mentions PROSPER, LifeSkills Training(LST), Strengthening Families Program(SFP), Project Alert (PA), and All Stars (AS).

Policy makers can use this web based article to obtain information regarding the effectiveness and impact of LifeSkills Training (LST),  All Stars (AS), and Project Alert (PA), on teens’ prescription opioid misuse  for substance abuse prevention; including opioids.  This can help make decisions on supporting these programs.


National Institutes of Health/National Institute on Drug Abuse website

Up-to-date information on commonly abused substances. It Includes multiple resources for prevention and education for a broad range of audiences. Policy makers, providers and parents can Benefit from this website due to its broad range of resources and frequently updated information.

Policy makers can access this site to receive the most up-to-date information on commonly used drugs: descriptions, street names, drug effects, trends, etc. It assists them in seeing specifically which trends are occurring when developing strategies on what they can do to assist their communities with the information provided by this site.


EBP Substance Abuse RCT Outcomes and PA Local Outcomes
Factsheet from the EPIS

Highlights substance abuse outcomes, the number of youth served from 2014-2015, and the impact from data collected. This would be of interest to Policy makers and programs as it outlines Outcomes/Impacts of Evidence based programs as well as providing information regarding the setting and model of those programs.

Policy makers can utilize this resource for talking points on substance abuse outcomes in the recent past.  It can assist them with becoming familar with these EBPs, and what might be a potential fit in the overall scheme of the state, county, region, etc.


The Social Development Strategy
Hawkins and Catalano, from The Center for Communities That Care website, Social Development Research Group, School of Social Work, University of Washington

Web based resource that outlines CTC’s Social Development Strategy that promotes positive youth development. This strategy organizes the knowledge on what protects young people from developing health and behavior problems into an easy-to-use strategy. This resource focuses on the CTC protective factor strategy that promotes social bonding, clear standards, individual characteristics, opportunities, skills, and recognition.

Policy makers can utilize this resource to become familiar with the Social Development Strategy.  It is user-friendly, and a easy depiction of this CTC model of behavioral development. 


University of Pittsburgh, Program Evaluation and Research Unit website

OverdoseFreePA is a collaboration between six partner organizations and sixteen Pennsylvania communities involved with overdose prevention and recovery activities. These communities are collaborating to develop resources that can be used by all Pennsylvanians to learn more about overdose and the way substance use disorders (SUD) affect people, families, and communities. By working together to create a central overdose resource, the treatment and prevention efforts in these communities will be increased. The overall goal of this project is to increase community awareness and knowledge of overdose and overdose prevention strategies as well as to support initiatives aimed at decreasing drug overdoses and deaths within the participating counties.

Policy makers can utilize this one-stop site for up-to-date news, data, education, and local resources on additional/substance abuse, particularly opioids.  With the opioid epidemic being the front-burner issue around the state for everyone, this is a great resource.