Opioid crisis to be the focus of two campus panel discussions

One event will highlight careers in fighting the epidemic and the other will weigh the impact opioids are having on communities.

VCU will host two panel discussions on the opioid crisis in early February, one focused on career...
VCU will host two panel discussions on the opioid crisis in early February, one focused on careers students can pursue to combat the epidemic and the other focused on the impact opioid addiction is having on communities.

Virginia Commonwealth University will host two panel discussions on the opioid crisis, one focused on careers students can pursue to combat the epidemic and the other focused on the impact opioid addiction is having on communities.

The first, “Careers Combating the Opioid Epidemic,” will be held 4 to 5:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 5, in the Forum Room of University Student Commons, 907 Floyd Ave.

The event, co-hosted by the Center for Health Disparities in the School of Medicine and VCU Career Services, will feature panelists from the fields of health care, addiction and law enforcement who will discuss their work to fight the opioid epidemic and educate students on how their majors and future careers can make a difference.

The panelists will include:


“Students at VCU have such a strong pull to participate in activism. Living in a diverse community such as Richmond exposes them to the struggles of different races, genders and socio-economic backgrounds. The opioid epidemic affects people from all walks of life; in Virginia, we are seeing the effect it has had on entire communities,” said Katybeth Lee, associate director, health sciences career and professional development, VCU Career Services. “This panel and its speakers will highlight their career paths that combat the opioid epidemic so students who feel strongly about this issue can get involved.”

The event is organized as part of VCU’s Common Book Program. This year’s selection, “Dreamland: The True Tale of America's Opiate Epidemic,” by journalist Sam Quinones, tells the story of the rise of black tar heroin and painkiller addiction in the United States.

The second panel discussion, “The Opioid Epidemic: Impact on Communities,” is organized by the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs and will be held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 6, in the Richmond Salons of University Student Commons.

The Wilder School panel discussion will focus on how the deterioration of communities has invited and encouraged drug use and crime. It will examine the epidemic from a variety of perspectives and also will look at access to health care and public opinion on treatment.

The panel will include:

  • Amy Cook, Ph.D., an assistant professor of criminal justice in the Wilder School.
  • Kathryn Howell, Ph.D., assistant professor of urban and regional studies and planning in the Wilder School.
  • Sarah Raskin, Ph.D., a medical anthropologist, an assistant professor in the Wilder School, and a collaborator on the oral health core of the VCU Institute for Inclusion, Inquiry and Innovation.
  • Chesterfield County Sheriff Karl Leonard, who started the Heroin Addiction Recovery Program, which includes medical, clinic, peer-to-peer and mental health services for county jail inmates hoping to overcome addiction.
  • John Ramsey, enterprise team editor for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, who has written extensively about the opioid epidemic.


“We will talk about the importance of the health of people and their communities and the policy and practice of what treatment for addiction means, and what the research shows regarding the public policy impact of the epidemic on our communities,” Cook said. “The Wilder School is uniquely positioned to examine the crisis from these perspectives because of our programs and faculty expertise in these areas.”

A recent Wilder School poll asked Virginians about their views regarding the expansion of treatment services for combating the opioid crisis. The 2017-18 Winter Public Policy Poll, conducted by the Wilder School’s Office of Public Policy Outreach, showed that Virginians overwhelmingly support expanding community-based treatment centers in their communities, at 82 percent.

The poll also found that 71 percent of Virginians favor using housing in their community for those in recovery. However, less than half (48 percent) support providing clean needles to IV drug users so they don’t use dirty needles that could spread infection.

Last year’s Public Policy Poll showed that the public supports the notion of treatment over arrest for both heroin (61 percent support treatment) and prescription pills (72 percent support treatment).

Both panel discussions will be free and open to the public.

About VCU and VCU Health

Virginia Commonwealth University is a major, urban public research university with national and international rankings in sponsored research. Located in downtown Richmond, VCU enrolls more than 31,000 students in 217 degree and certificate programs in the arts, sciences and humanities. Thirty-eight of the programs are unique in Virginia, many of them crossing the disciplines of VCU’s 11 schools and three colleges. The VCU Health brand represents the VCU health sciences academic programs, the VCU Massey Cancer Center and the VCU Health System, which comprises VCU Medical Center (the only academic medical center in the region), Community Memorial Hospital, Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU, MCV Physicians and Virginia Premier Health Plan. For more, please visit www.vcu.edu and vcuhealth.org.