Temple establishes Task Force on Opioid and Related Drug Addiction and Recovery Support

In a major step to continue ensuring that Temple’s 40,000 students have access to ample resources related to addiction and recovery, the university has established a multidisciplinary task force. The group, comprised of faculty, students and staff from across the university, will examine current offerings and policies at Temple and elsewhere, interview key informants and make recommendations later this year on how to strengthen the university’s offerings.

President Richard M. Englert and Executive Vice President and Provost JoAnne A. Epps convened the 10-member Task Force on Opioid and Related Drug Addiction and Recovery Support during the spring 2018 semester. 

“At Temple, providing a safe and supportive environment for our students so they can excel academically and enjoy successful college careers is of utmost importance,” said President Richard M. Englert. “Though the university already has a number of resources in place, we felt it important to utilize the wealth of expertise available here to ensure we are doing all that we can for students.”  

John Daly, Harry C. Donahoo Professor of Surgery in the Lewis Katz School of Medicine, and Ellen Unterwald, professor of pharmacology and director of the Center for Substance Abuse Research at the Katz School, are co-chairing the group.

“The president and provost both recognized a need to address the issue of opioids and other drugs that may be misused on campus,” said Daly, who also chairs the Opioid Task Force for the American College of Surgeons. “It’s a huge problem, and there are many contributing factors.” 

Other members of the task force currently include:

  • Mark Denys, director, Student and Employee Health Services;
  • John DiMino, director, Tuttleman Counseling Services;
  • David O’Gurek, assistant professor, family and community medicine at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine;
  • Stephanie Ives, associate vice president and dean of students;
  • T.J. Logan, associate vice president for Student Affairs;
  • Alexander Mark, Class of 2020, Temple Student Government representative;
  • Joseph D’Orazio, assistant professor, emergency medicine at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine; and
  • Jerry Stahler, professor of geography and urban studies in the College of Liberal Arts, nominated by the Faculty Senate.

Resource task force members include Van Hellerslia, clinical assistant professor in the School of Pharmacy; Charlie Leone, executive director of Campus Safety Services; Mary McElroy, executive senior associate athletics director; Bernie Newman, associate professor in the College of Public Health’s School of Social Work; and Marsha Zibalese-Crawford, associate professor in the College of Public Health’s School of Social Work. D’Orazio, Stahler and Zibalese-Crawford also served on the Mayor’s Task Force to Combat the Opioid Epidemic for the City of Philadelphia. O’Gurek oversees the Suboxone medication assisted treatment program at Temple University Hospital. 

Daly said the task force will first create a database of information on the extent of the problem of opioid and other substance misuse at colleges and universities nationally and examine the ways other higher education institutions address the issues among their students. The task force will then evaluate the resources already offered at Temple and determine what additional steps should be taken.

“There certainly are a lot of programs here at Temple,” Unterwald said. “It may be that there are ways to better bring those to students’ attention so that they can be fully utilized.”

Substance use-related resources at Temple include support and services offered through the Wellness Resource Center and Tuttleman Counseling Services; a Suboxone program on campus to provide medication-assisted treatment to students in recovery from opioid use disorder; and the student-run Temple Collegiate Recovery Program, among others.

“This task force is a tremendous step forward for Temple, and a lot of students, faculty and staff don’t know much about all the resources already here. It’s really important that Temple do all that it can to support students in recovery as well as address the stigma involved with this disease,” said Stahler, a clinical psychologist who has researched addiction and taught Temple’s Drugs in Urban Society course for decades. “This task force will help promote what’s already here and also develop more resources for students in recovery.” 

Recovery housing is one additional potential resource the task force plans to explore. Members will also examine campus emergency response policies, such as availability of the opioid overdose antidote Narcan, crisis management for students facing addiction and their families, and support systems for students in recovery on campus.  

The group will meet periodically over the next several months and plans to deliver recommendations to Englert and Epps by the end of the fall 2018 semester.