The NCSL Blog


By Tammy Jo Musgraves

The second meeting of the 2019 Opioid Policy Fellows focused on innovation and collaboration among many state and community partners, including a session on successful examples of collaboration between the health and justice systems.

NCSL’s Opioid Policy Fellows program is designed to support legislators who are experienced or emerging leaders on opioid addiction and overdose issues.

The June meeting, held in Denver, allowed the fellows to connect with and build knowledge about new research, policy and innovations, while exchanging ideas and solutions with one another on issues related to opioid misuse and overdose.

 The sessions included:

  • Nontraditional Partners: Criminal Justice System. This session focused on collaboration between health and justice system actors at various levels of government to improve outcomes for individuals. Faculty from the Charleston Center, National Center for State Courts and the Denver Juvenile Probation highlighted strategies such as deflection and diversion, as well as their successes with the integration of medication-assisted treatment into various parts of the justice system. Fellows had the opportunity to hear from their peers in Utah about initiatives happening in that state.
  • Transitions: Connecting to Care. This session focused on critical opportunities to connect patients to care. Speakers from the Huntington Quick Response Team and the Corporation for Supportive Housing discussed strategies that link justice-involved individuals and overdose survivors to treatment, community-based resources and stable housing. In addition to a report from fellows in Rhode Island and Utah, the group learned about rapid (or quick) response teams (QRT) using West Virginia’s successful program and supportive housing models using Denver’s Pay for Success Project as examples.
  • Creative Collaborations. This session featured Colorado’s collaborations across sectors with health, law enforcement and others. Robert Valuck and José Equibel shared successes and lessons learned from the Colorado Prescription Drug Consortium’s multisectoral and intergovernmental efforts.

The fellows met with their counterparts in four joint sessions with the 2019 Maternal and Child Health Fellows. These sessions highlighted issues that intersect with challenges faced in both opioid policy and maternal and child health policy:

  • Suicide Prevention. Fellows learned about suicide prevention efforts broadly with a focus on programs led by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
  • Preventing and Addressing Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome. Fellows learned ways to prevent and address neonatal abstinence syndrome from Dr. Rahul Gupta, chief medical and health officer with the March of Dimes. As the previous public health commissioner in West Virginia, Gupta highlighted local work done within that state to curb opioid use by pregnant and nursing women.
  • A Conversation With State Health Officials. During a joint dinner plenary, fellows had a discussion with state health officials from the Utah Department of Health and the Indiana State Department of Health. The officials shared state initiatives on improving maternal and child health and addressing the opioid epidemic.
  • Recovery and Hope. Cortney Lovell of Our Wellness Collective closed out the joint sessions with a personal narrative of addiction and recovery.

In addition to these educational sessions, fellows went head-to-head in a competitive round of "Jeopardy!" that tested their knowledge on treatment for addiction, substance use and adverse childhood experiences.

The conference ended with 24 legislators from 22 states graduating the 2019 Opioid Policy Fellows program. Congratulations!

Read more about the conference’s agenda and presentation from expert panelists. This program is made possible by funding from the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Tammy Jo Musgraves is a policy specialist with NCSL’s Health Program.

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This blog offers updates on the National Conference of State Legislatures' research and training, the latest on federalism and the state legislative institution, and posts about state legislators and legislative staff. The blog is edited by NCSL staff and written primarily by NCSL's experts on public policy and the state legislative institution.