KU News Service

Opioid public health emergency declaration step in right direction to fight epidemic, professors say

Fri, 10/27/2017

LAWRENCE — President Donald Trump announced Thursday he would direct the Department of Health and Human Services to declare the opioid crisis a public health emergency. The move would free up money and ease laws to combat the problem that killed an estimated 59,000 Americans last year.

Nancy Jo Kepple, assistant professor, and Jody Brook, associate professor of social welfare at the University of Kansas, are available to discuss the declaration with media. Kepple, who has conducted research in substance use and misuse and is part of a partnership to evaluate the crisis and improve response in the Kansas City area, can discuss opioids, substance misuse, response to the crisis, the public health emergency declaration, the effects of substance misuse on families, how to improve services for individuals experiencing addiction and related topics.

Brook, director of the Center for Children and Families, can discuss the opioid epidemic, its effect on families and children, children in the social welfare system as a result of the problem, parental substance abuse and more.

“Opioid use in the United States is a major concern given the serious consequences that opioid addiction can have for the individual, such as overdose and death, and for their families and children,” Kepple said. “We are working hard with community partners in the greater Kansas City area, such as First Call Alcohol/Drug Prevention & Recovery, to understand how current health and social service systems can be more responsive to the broad range of complex needs for opioid-using individuals and their families. The solutions for this epidemic are not simple, and it will require coordinated systems of care and resources to support these systems.”

The announcement did not make clear how the declaration would specifically address the crisis, especially following the resignation of Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price and Tom Marino withdrawing from a nomination to lead the Office of National Drug Control Policy. However, the announcement was an expected move, following the creation of an opioid commission in March.

To schedule an interview with Kepple or Brook, contact Mike Krings at 785-864-8860 or

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