Liz McCormick Published

Survey Shows W.Va. Wants to be a Leader in Combating Opioid Crisis

Mary Woolley, Research America, Research!America, Shepherd University

Shepherd University hosted an event Monday exploring the possibility of more efficient ways for universities, industry, government, and scientific researchers to work together to combat the opioid epidemic. And a recent public opinion survey indicates West Virginians want to see the state be a leader on this issue.

The survey, conducted by Research!America in partnership with Zogby Analytics, was presented at Shepherd’s event –  “West Virginia Research and Innovation: A Catalyst for Better Health and Economic Growth.”

The two-hour event focused on ways the state’s universities can partner with companies, researchers, and other professionals to effectively address the state’s overwhelming opioid crisis.

Several speakers, including Shepherd University President Mary Hendrix, pointed out how investing in education is the key to making real headway in the epidemic. She also pointed to partnerships between universities and big research companies – like the data and analytic giant Elsevier.

Brad Fenwick is the Senior Vice President for Global Strategic Alliances with Elsevier. He argues partnerships between universities and companies like his can make a big difference when dealing with complex issues like the opioid epidemic.

“Those partnerships, by having the intelligence and the time to think about those types of things, and then the support from government, and then the ability to apply that knowledge through industry, just, our experience, makes things happen, as opposed to any one of those bits of the triple helix doing it on their own,” Fenwick said.

President and CEO of Research!America Mary Woolley says the survey her nonprofit conducted found West Virginians lead the nation in wanting to see more health research – and that they think it’s a wise investment of tax dollars.

“West Virginians are even more sure that we’ve got to make more progress faster and use resources to get there,” Woolley noted,  “I think that’s probably because West Virginians are living up-close and personal with very tough health challenges right now.”

Some of the research showed that 70 percent of West Virginian’s strongly agree opioids are being overprescribed and creating a barrier to combating the epidemic, and 43 percent want to see more federal funding for STEM education. 47 percent strongly support more funding for research to understand and treat addiction. But only 27 percent strongly support the use of overdose reversing drugs like Narcan.

Sens. Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito also attended the event. Both encouraged West Virginians to reach out to them and say what’s working on the federal level and what isn’t when dealing with the opioid crisis.