Welcome and Introductory Remarks

Working Toward Lasting Impact

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“Today we come together not only to address a crisis, but also to share hope.”

– Schlissel

In leading off the University of Michigan/Harvard University summit “Opioids: Policy to Practice,” U-M President Mark S. Schlissel, MD, PhD, issued a bold challenge to the hundreds of stakeholders who convened to discuss policy and practice approaches to address the nation’s opioid crisis.

“We face an epidemic that affects everyone, spanning urban and rural communities, adolescents and the elderly, all races and socioeconomic levels” Schlissel told participants, who assembled across policymaking, academic, public health, healthcare delivery and leadership, association, law enforcement, payer, patient and family advocacy, and community spheres. “Yet our society too often works on such problems in silos, bounded by state or campus or jurisdictional borders.”

Successfully curbing the opioid epidemic – one of the most significant public health threats in our lifetime – will demand greater collaboration across sectors, and necessitate that policy solutions are grounded in evidence, Schlissel urged, introducing a core theme that threaded throughout the day-long event on May 10, 2019 in Ypsilanti, Michigan.

Schlissel pointed to examples of collaborative efforts underway at both universities – including U-M’s Opioid Solutions, Precision Health, and the Michigan Opioid Prescribing Engagement Network (Michigan OPEN) –  as promising initiatives to model and build upon.

He noted that the summit and the partnerships supporting it represent a critical mass of expertise that has tremendous potential to make a lasting and positive impact, and stated his hope that this collaboration would serve as an “inspirational and intellectual model” not only for addressing the opioid epidemic, but other significant societal challenges on the horizon.

“As our world becomes smaller, the inverse is true of our problems,” Schlissel said. “They get bigger and more complex, and will not be solved in isolation.”

So, where do we go from here? Throughout the day, policymakers, researchers, and other thought leaders considered how to best implement the latest evidence into policy and practice, and how to enhance collaboration through new paradigms of working together that will be necessary to address this significant public health issue.