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Fighting the opioid epidemic with new knowledge: U-M teams up with Harvard, National Academy of Medicine

Free webcast of May 10 Michigan/Harvard opioid summit will share new findings from efforts to study and address the epidemic from many angles

ANN ARBOR, MI – With 130 Americans dying every day from opioid overdoses, and 2 million suffering from disorders related to prescription and non-prescription opioids, the University of Michigan is ramping up efforts to make an impact on the opioid epidemic through the research and expertise of its faculty and their teams.

Today, U-M officially joined a national effort to address the opioid crisis: the National Academy of Medicine’s Action Collaborative on Countering the U.S. Opioid Epidemic.

The university also has opened up registration for a free public webcast of a day-long summit on opioid-related issues on Friday, May 10 that U-M is co-hosting with Harvard University.

“Researchers across all three of our campuses are actively seeking solutions to reduce opioid overdose, as well as effective strategies to address pain,” says Rebecca Cunningham, M.D., associate vice president for research and director of the U-M Injury Prevention Center. “Through our participation in the National Academy’s new effort, and our partnership with Harvard, we hope to accelerate our efforts to get this new knowledge to the people who can use it most.”

NAM Action Collaborative

The NAM collaborative brings together more than 100 organizations across the U.S., including community organizations, hospital and medical systems, academia, nonprofits and health professional societies.

As a member, U-M has committed to sharing information and best practices, coordinating opioid-related efforts and advancing new initiatives together with other collaborative members.

Founded in 2018 in collaboration with the Aspen Institute, the Action Collaborative on Countering the U.S. Opioid Epidemic is a public-private partnership committed to developing, curating and disseminating multi-sector solutions designed to reduce opioid misuse and improve outcomes for individuals, families and communities affected by the opioid crisis.

“The opioid epidemic is one of the most devastating public health crises of the modern era, impacting individuals, families, and communities across the nation,” said National Academy of Medicine President Victor J. Dzau. “The complexity of this crisis requires sustained commitment from all stakeholders: health systems, federal and state governments, community organizations, provider groups, payers, industry, nonprofits, and academia. Reversing the opioid epidemic requires a multi-sectoral response — no organization, agency, or sector can solve this problem on their own. NAM is privileged to lead this action collaborative, which will work to develop collective solutions and advance those with the most potential to reverse or stem the crisis. We are thrilled to see such a robust commitment from organizations across the country in joining with us to be part of the solution.”

Opioid Summit free webcast

The Michigan/Harvard opioid summit, organized as part of a broader collaboration between the two institutions, begins at 8 a.m. and continues until 3:30 p.m. on Friday, May 10. U-M President Mark Schlissel will open the event, titled “Opioids: Policy to Practice”, which will include more than 400 invited guests and a webcast available worldwide.   

The top official for opioid epidemic response at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Admiral Brett P. Giroir, M.D., will give the keynote address. Giroir is Assistant Secretary for Health and senior advisor to the Secretary of HHS.

Chad Brummett, M.D., co-chair of the summit and director of pain research at Michigan Medicine, says, "We look forward to an exciting and engaging summit. It is an honor to work with experts from Michigan and Harvard, policy makers and payers to discuss solutions to opioid epidemic." Brummett, a member of the U-M Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation, co-leads the Michigan Opioid Prescribing and Engagement Network, which has also signed on to the NAM Action Collaborative.  He is co-chairing the summit with Harvard's Mary Bassett, M.D., M.P.H.

The summit aims to give policymakers, community health leaders, the business community and families affected by the opioid epidemic the latest findings from U-M and Harvard research, as well as updates on initiatives and public policies aimed at addressing specific aspects of the epidemic.

A full list of speakers, schedule of talks and webcast registration link can be found at http://opioidsummit.umich.edu. Those who register will receive an email with the link to watch the webcast and ask questions of speaker via a chat window.

The event will also be live-tweeted using the hashtag #OpSummit19. Speakers’ slides and a video recording will be available after the event via the website.

U-M vs. the opioid epidemic

Last year, U-M launched Opioid Solutions, a network that encourages and coordinates efforts across campus and beyond to find solutions to the opioid epidemic.

Located at https://opioids.umich.edu/, it showcases U-M expertise of all kinds -- from the basic science of studying opioids’ impact on the brain and body, to safe prescribing recommendations for clinicians, to the evaluation of efforts to prevent and treat opioid use disorders.

U-M also offers an email newsletter of updates about this work; anyone may sign up on the website to receive it.

The site, and events for researchers, have catalyzed new connections among U-M faculty, and led to new collaborations.

“Large research universities, especially ones with academic medical centers like our Michigan Medicine, have tremendous power to help society overcome major issues like this epidemic,” says Cunningham, an emergency medicine physician who has treated opioid overdose patients, as well as conducting research on overdose risk and prevention. “By pooling our knowledge and connecting with the community, we have already made a difference, but we have a tremendous sense of urgency about doing more.”

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