ODU joins other Virginia universities to battle opioid crisis

NORFOLK, Va. - According to a recent report from ODU, more than 1,400 Virginians died last year from opioid overdoses.

A growing problem for over a decade, it's become the leading cause of accidental deaths across the Commonwealth.

“How did it seemingly come out of nowhere and start taking over all of the statistics?" Dr. Barbara A. Blake, the Chief Administrative Officer of ODU’s Dragas Center for Economic Analysis and Policy, asked.

That’s a question she’s is working to explore with four other Virginia universities: Virginia State University, University of Virginia, George Mason University and Virginia Tech.

With the help of the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health, they comprise the Virginia Higher Education Opioids Consortium.

“We all came together to look at how we could tap into universities and the very different research areas that we were all doing at the same time,” Dr. Blake explained.

The research project will explore prevention, treatment and recovery programs though community service boards.

“It is very multifaceted. We’ve got the situation where perhaps prescriptions were given out that should not have. It’s a myriad of issues that we have to tackle,” she said.

ODU is working to explore the impacts the epidemic has on the workforce.

“What do we do in order to help them in the workforce, so they can get treatment and not slide out of the system? Then, obviously if they are not employed, how do we get them back into the workforce?"

The university is also researching the financial cost it’s having.

“When we have to have Narcan on the budgets of local police departments and school systems – how do we minimize those economic costs because those economic costs are felt throughout society,” she mentioned.

The participants range in fields of public health, medical, community service and addiction.

Dr. Blake said they haven’t started researching yet because the partnership just began.

The consortium is expect to run for two years, but they can extend it if needed.

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