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July 30, 2018

Understanding the Opioid Epidemic in Our Communities

By Latonya Duncan

The opioid epidemic of addiction and overdose has affected communities across the country. According to the Centers for Disease Control, in 2016 more than 63,000 Americans died from drug overdose and nearly two-thirds of those deaths, 66 percent, involved a prescription opioid, an illegal opioid such as heroin or an illicitly manufactured opioid such as fentanyl.

The opioid epidemic is an issue that connects with the role of a Federal Reserve Bank to understand the economic health of geographic regions. Our Community Development team has been engaged at the state-level with programs to convene policymakers and practitioners to help mobilize new ideas and foster collaborations to strategically address the effects of the opioid epidemic on the workforce and in low- and moderate-income and underserved communities.

In North Carolina, Jeanne Milliken Bonds, senior regional community development manager, has participated in and led discussions, and in West Virginia, Jen Giovannitti, regional community development manager, has convened programs with partner organizations.

Bonds led a partnership with the University of North Carolina’s Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise to engage in a roundtable discussion on the growing opioid epidemic in North Carolina and the toll it takes on the state’s economy. More than 150 key stakeholders representing government, business, health care and education exchanged ideas and strategies on the issue. A specific focus on low- and moderate-income communities and underserved communities was part of the discussion.

“The relationship between economic well-being and physical and mental well-being is a pertinent one that we explore in the Healthy Communities Framework for community development,” said Bonds. “Our community development work is connected to the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA), which requires financial institutions to invest in their local communities. Health-related investments are critical in communities hard hit by this epidemic because of the volume of resources needed for physical and mental well-being.”

In May, in coordination with the North Carolina statewide Substance Abuse Prevention Conference that brings together practitioners from all 100 counties in the state, Community Development held a convening that explored workforce and healthy communities, paying close attention to substance abuse. The program brought together more than 275 prevention/treatment professionals, substance abuse coalition participants, parents, law enforcement, courts, action agencies, workforce boards, health practitioners, and community business and financial institution leaders. North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein, Secretary of Health and Human Services Mandy Cohen, Nathan Batts of the N.C. Bankers Association, State Representative Dr. Greg Murphy and the N.C. Chamber of Commerce’s Gary Salamido, a pharmacist, participated on a panel moderated by Bonds.

Giovannitti presented at the winter 2018 Community College Workforce Consortium meeting in New Orleans. The presentation, “The Opioid Crisis in Fifth District Communities,” looks at the effects of the opioid epidemic and how it affects the workforce and low- and moderate-income communities in the Fifth District.

“The opioid epidemic has been affecting communities in a variety of ways” said Giovannitti. “We hear our community partners talk about its impact on families, employers, healthcare systems and the criminal justice system.”

In April, Bonds presented on the impact of the opioid epidemic to the Richmond Fed’s Teacher Collaborative in Baltimore. The Teacher Collaborative Committee (TCC) supports the Bank’s development and delivery of economic and financial education resources and programs. Committee members provide input and feedback on resources, and help guide the Bank’s outreach efforts to teachers and students. Bonds will address the newly formed committee in Charlotte in August.

Richmond Fed Resources

Richmond Fed at a Glance: Focus on Opioids
Regional Matters
Footprint November 2017
Healthy Communities Across the District

Additional Resources

Appalachian Regional Commission Testimony
Economic Aspects of the Opioid Crisis

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