The University of Cincinnati Academic Health Center, located right in the epicenter of the opioid crisis, is tackling the issue with innovation and collaboration. The university’s Opioid Task Force, with representatives from the Colleges of Medicine, Pharmacy, Nursing and Allied Health Sciences, are using their combined expertise and perspectives to develop solutions to help the community end the crisis once and for all.

Neil MacKinnon, BSc, MSc, PhD, dean and professor of the James L Winkle College of Pharmacy, and Melissa DelBello, MD, professor and chair, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience, were chosen to lead the task force.

Neil MacKinnon, BSc, MSc, PhD, dean and professor of the James L Winkle College of Pharmacy, and Melissa DelBello, MD, professor and chair, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral NeuroscienceWhile there are many cutting-edge studies and projects at UC dealing with opioid addiction, both DelBello and MacKinnon cite the Opioid Task Force as being the most innovative because of the group’s collaboration. Before, there were a variety of activities going on all throughout the Academic Health Center, but people were working in silos and it wasn’t a collaborative, cohesive effort to address a huge epidemic.

“The task force is really innovative because we're bringing together researchers, clinicians and educators in one room to learn from each other for the first time,” said MacKinnon.

The UC Academic Health Center is involved in multiple clinical programs working with patients and families along with research efforts to address the problem in terms of underlying ideology, prevention, early intervention and addiction intervention.

“We are heavily involved on a national level in research, state-of-the-art clinical care and cutting-edge research to quickly intervene and get this epidemic under control by establishing innovative new clinical programs and innovative research,” said DelBello.

Since the university is at the heart of the opioid epidemic in Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia, the task force members realize that people are watching to see how the university responds as a leader in healthcare. Since UC is the region’s only academic health center, MacKinnon and DelBello believe they can truly have a local and regional impact, but hopefully a national impact as well.

“We're learning from each other. We're also partnering with our local practice partners, like UC Health, Cincinnati Children's and the VA,” said MacKinnon. “That's a very special mix of skill sets. I think it will help us continue to create innovative solutions to this challenge.”

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