Legislators, law enforcement officials, political leaders and medical experts will address the opioid epidemic during a wide-ranging symposium set for April 18.
Sponsored by the Hobby School of Public Affairs at the University of Houston and Baylor College of Medicine, the day-long event will complement the work of the Texas House Select Committee on Opioids and Substance Abuse.
Members of that committee, including Chairman Four Price, R-Amarillo, and Garnet Coleman, a Houston Democrat, will attend. State Rep. Sarah Davis, R-Houston, also is scheduled to join the policy roundtable. The select committee is set to present an action plan to address opioid and other substance abuse issues by Nov. 1.
“While the opioid epidemic hasn’t yet hit Texas as hard as some other states, it remains a serious issue,” said Daniel Engster, professor and director of the Civitas program at the Hobby School. “The symposium provides policymakers and practitioners with an opportunity to better understand the scope of the problem and develop policy solutions to it.”
Other speakers include Elinore McCance-Katz, director of the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration; Andy Keller of the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute; and Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez.
Dr. Thomas Kosten, Waggoner Chair and professor of psychiatry, neuroscience, pharmacology, immunology and pathology at Baylor, said the introduction of fentanyl into the illicit opiate marketplace has driven an explosive rise in overdoses.
“Our health care policy needs to confront this ongoing crisis with meaningful resources for treatment and prevention, not with empty slogans like ‘just say no to drugs,’ ” he said. “Secretary McCance-Katz’s healthcare policy lecture will lay out a plan for America and Houston, and our state legislators can move this plan forward to make Houston a model city for the country in effectively, passionately and realistically confronting this epidemic with caring and compassion, not the failed tools of war.”
The symposium will begin at 9 a.m. in Cullen Auditorium at Baylor College of Medicine. See here to register and for more information.