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Opioid Task Force Enters Second Year of Planning, Assessment in Community Collaboration

Ferris State UniversityA 25-member coalition of Ferris State University experts and professionals from the Big Rapids and Mecosta County community have entered a second year of meetings and assessment to determine issues related to opioid drug use, misuse and abuse in the region.

Assistant Professor of Public Health Fathima Wakeel said the Interdisciplinary Opioid Task Force was proposed by the deans of the colleges of Arts, Sciences and Education, Health Professions and Pharmacy and the Michigan College of Optometry.

“It was quickly determined, when meetings were arranged in the fall of 2017, that the collaboration needed to include the greater community,” Wakeel said. “We have since found considerable support from experts with Spectrum Health Big Rapids and Reed City hospitals, Community Mental Health for Central Michigan’s Mecosta County center, the District 10 Health Department and the Ten 16 Recovery Network.”

Birkam Health Center and Personal Counseling Center Director Lindsay Barber said she was pleased to be brought onto the task force and serve as a group chair when the decision was made earlier in the year to form a steering committee and pursue a logic model. That pursuit sought to define outcomes for the workgroups in the task force, identify what work would be done to try and accomplish those goals and make known the basis for their expectations.

“The issue of opioid use and abuse is large enough that the response would call for efforts and consideration from across the university and its colleges, along with our community partners,” Barber said. “One of our chief tasks will be to assess the need for support services in our area, once the level of use, misuse and abuse can be determined.”

Another active member of the task force, Spectrum Health/Big Rapids director of Community Health Beth Langenburg, said she was glad to gather with her peers on the Ferris campus Wednesday, Oct. 10 to resume their efforts.

“We will be holding monthly sessions, and begin to address how to raise public awareness regarding opioid abuse, and make the community aware of resources, if they have or suspect a problem,” Langenburg said. “Another key component of our work is improving the regional response if it is determined that there are gaps in the current offerings being made in terms of public outreach and support.”

PHOTO CAPTION: Shown is an overhead view of a southern area of Ferris State University’s main campus in Big Rapids.