Public Health students raise awareness about opioid epidemic

April 11, 2018

Public Health Student Society organized a town hall with local experts to discuss one of the nation's largest drug epidemics and healthcare crises.

Kochoff room during Opioid crises townhall
Kochoff room during Opioid crises townhall
(photo by: Batoul Koussan)

DEARBORN, MI. - According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, upwards of 100 Americans a day die of an opioid overdose, and as a result, the opioid epidemic was declared a public health emergency in October of 2017.

The stark statistics surrounding the emergency were the impetus for the University of Michigan-Dearborn's Public Health Student Society (PHSS) to use this year’s National Public Health Week to engage the university’s students in an important dialogue about how we got to this point, what can be done now to ameliorate the epidemic, and what important changes will need to happen to prevent future crises like it.

On April 3rd, students gathered in Kochoff Hall to talk through these lessons with a panel of four professionals moderated by Dr. Paul Draus, Professor of Sociology at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. Those panelists were: Ms. Mona Abdallah-Hijazi, Public Health Coordinator at ACCESS; Mr. Dwight Vaughter, CEO of Self-Help Addiction Rehabilitation Inc.; Dr. Annette Mercatante, Medical Health Officer, St. Clair County Health Department; Ms. Karra Thomas, Prevention Services Manager at the Detroit Wayne Metro Health Authority.

Local experts at the Opioid Crises Townhall

Guest panelists (from left): Dr. Paul Draus; Mr. Dwight Vaughter; Ms. Mona Abdallah-Hijazi; Ms. Darlene Owens and Dr. Annette Mercatante.
(photo by: Batoul Koussan)

During the two-hour event, a jam-packed Kochoff Hall took in an engaging and edifying conversation drawing from the panelists’ experiences in public health. The Q&A session touched on misconceptions and stigmas around addiction, policy causes and fixes for the crisis, differences between this and past drug abuse epidemics, and practical advice for students looking to make a difference.

This event was the result of the ongoing efforts of PHSS leadership, College of Education Health and Human Services (CEHHS) faculty and students from CEHHS Assistant Professor Dr. Natalie Sampson's HHS 350 Community Organizing.

Leaders of PHSS, Emma Watters (Public Health major) and Jessica Doan (Public Health major), worked hand-in-hand with Rachel Higgins (Healthy Policy Studies major) and Alba Montenegro (Community Health Education major) to plan and organize the event which doubled as a service-learning project for HHS 350 students Rachel and Alba.

Attendees to Opioid Crisis Townhall

(from left): Adhem Elbezra, public health major; Dr. Natalie Sampson, Professor of Public Health and Dr. Patricia A. Wren, chair of Health and Human Services Department.
(Photo by: Batoul Koussan)

Special thanks are also owed to Dr. Juliette Roddy for connecting PHSS with the panelists, PHSS faculty advisor Dr. Natalie Sampson for her support and connecting the society with HHS 350, Dr. Patricia A. Wren for supporting and advising PHSS, and the rest of CEHHS faculty who promoted the event.

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