UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The Penn State Consortium on Substance Use and Addiction (CSUA) hosted its second annual conference, “Community Approaches to Substance Use and Addiction” on Monday, May 3.
Held virtually via Zoom and drawing over 120 attendees throughout the day, the conference kicked off with a welcome from Paul Griffin, the director of CSUA and professor of industrial and manufacturing engineering, and an introduction of the keynote speaker from Stephanie Lanza, former CSUA director and the director of the Edna Bennett Pierce Prevention Center.
The opening keynote speaker, Magdalena Cerdá, director of the NYU Center for Opioid Epidemiology and Policy at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine, spoke about some of the work that her center was doing on opioid crisis, how the pandemic has impacted opioid overdoses, the crisis at the “street-level,” and recommended policy changes to alleviate the crisis.
“I think a direction for future research is thinking about things a little more upstream about what are the social drivers of opioid misuse and how can we intervene in communities earlier on to prevent this from getting worse in the future,” said Cerdá.
Following Cerdá’s presentation, the conference convened four panels which focused on different areas — prevention, treatment, recovery, and stigma — before ending with a closing keynote presentation.
The first session on prevention was moderated by Kelly Rulison, a CSUA co-funded faculty member and associate professor of human development and family studies at Penn State University Park. Panelists Megan Affrunti, director of substance use disorders and recovery at the Clinton Foundation; Darigg Brown, program manager of substance use prevention, evaluation, and research at RTI International; and Rina Eiden, another CSUA co-funded faculty member and professor of psychology at Penn State University Park, focused on a number of issues related to prevention like program implementation.
Then the second session discussed issues related to treatment. Moderated by Dr. Sarah Kawasaki, assistant professor of psychiatry and internal medicine at the Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center and member of the CSUA advisory board, the panelists focused on the changes in access to treatment because of the pandemic. Panelists included Mike Gersz, director of outpatient services at Maryhaven; Anthony Folland, Clinical Services Manager and Opioid Treatment Authority Director, Alcohol and Drug Abuse Programs at the Vermont Department of Health; Brooke Hiltz Community Program Manager, and Christopher Cook, Treatment Program Manager, both from the HEALing Communities Study at the University of Kentucky.
The topic of recovery was the third session of the day and focused on issues faced inside and outside of the recovery community like the promotion of recovery supports, advocating for those in recovery, data collection, and the concept of recovery capital. The panel was moderated by Kristina Brant, CSUA co-funded faculty member and assistant professor of agricultural economics, sociology, and education at Penn State University Park; and included Hobart (Bo) Cleveland, III, professor of human development and family studies at Penn State University Park; Chief Operating Officer of Faces & Voices of Recovery Philip Rutherford; and Jason Whitney, the program coordinator of the Collegiate Recovery Community, and assistant teaching professor of education at Penn State University Park.
The last panel focused on addressing substance use and addiction stigma. Glenn Sterner, CSUA co-funded faculty member and assistant professor of criminal justice at Penn State Abington, served as moderator to the stigma discussion. The panelists included Jordan Lewis, director of policy of the Pennsylvania Department of Drugs and Alcohol Program; Jennifer Murphy, associate professor of criminal justice at Penn State Berks, and President of the Scattergood Foundation Joe Pyle. The group discussed
For the last portion of the conference, Joel Segel, associate professor of health policy and administration, and CSUA executive committee member, introduced the closing keynote speakers: Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro and Pennsylvania Executive Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Selber.
“The [opioid] crisis claims the lives of 14 Pennsylvanians every single day,” Shapiro said in a pre-recorded statement. “We all understand the taking on of the opioid crisis, and it has to happen on multiple fronts, and takes everyone working together to protect our communities and save lives.”
Selber expanded on Shapiro’s remarks and explained that law enforcement had caught up with the opioid crisis while targeting street level drug dealers and medical professionals who were overprescribing to individuals with substance use disorders. She discussed a program called LETI, the Law Enforcement Treatment Initiative, that allows police officers to come in contact with people with substance use disorders and divert them towards treatment options instead of the criminal justice system.
The CSUA, part of the Social Science Research Institute, draws on the expertise of researchers, educators, and practitioners from across Penn State to develop and implement effective programs, policies and practices aimed at preventing and treating addiction and its spillover effects on children, families, and communities.
If you missed this year’s conference, all the panel sessions are available on the Social Science Research Institute’s YouTube channel. Follow CSUA’s work on Twitter and subscribe to the monthly newsletter for more updates about research, events, and other opportunities.