Opioid Training Institute with gearsAUBURN, Alabama – Alabama is one of the most affected states in the country when it comes to the Opioid Crisis. In 2017, there were 422 overdose deaths involving either prescription or illicit drugs in the state, an average of more than one per day.

To battle such a crisis requires a collaborative and interprofessional effort. With that in mind, Auburn University’s Harrison School of Pharmacy and the Alabama Department of Mental Health have partnered to create the Opioid Training Institute.

The OTI is a series of 16 one-day, free training programs spanning the state from May through September. The programs are broken up evenly with eight focused on health care professionals such as physicians, pharmacists, nurses, nurse practitioners, dentists and veterinarians; and the other eight focused on community members including, but not limited to, educators, social workers, guidance counselors, behavioral health specialists, counselors, faith-based community leaders, state and local leaders and law enforcement.

“We know that many factors led to Alabama’s unfortunate position as a leader in opioid use in the United States. Accordingly, we know that a variety of strategies are necessary to address the opioid problem in Alabama,” said Dr. Brent Fox, associate professor with the Harrison School of Pharmacy. “The Opioid Training Institute will allow us to convene a diverse group of experiences, expertise, and perspectives to advance the fight against opioids in our state.”

The opioid epidemic is one that knows no neighborhood, class, or age and impacts every sector of the state, including health care, education, business, and local government. Opioids are a class of drugs that includes heroin as well as prescription pain relievers such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, morphine and fentanyl. These drugs work by binding to the body’s opioid receptors in the reward center of the brain, diminishing pain as well as producing feelings of relaxation and euphoria.

Because of the variety of uses, one could come into contact with opioids from street drugs to prescription drugs. The problem is one that affects all socio-economic statuses. It is for this reason that such a broad spectrum of people, from health care to law enforcement to leaders in the community, are needed to fight the problem.

“Opioid use disorder impacts those from the teen years to the older populations in our state. In 2017, more than 47,000 Americans died of opioid overdoses and in Alabama we see the need for education to reach everyone that may have the power to evoke change for our communities,” said Dr. Karen Marlowe, assistant dean of the Harrison School of Pharmacy. “Understanding the risk factors for opioid use disorder and overdose in your school, community, place of worship may help someone to connect with the appropriate resources in their community.  We also hope to start more conversations across different professions to share information about programs that already exist in communities across the state.”

The programs begin May 20-21 with sessions for community members in Birmingham. Other stops around the state include Mobile/Baldwin County, Huntsville, Cullman, Montgomery, Auburn, Dothan, Troy and Tuscaloosa.

All sessions are free and pre-registration is preferred. Speakers at the events include those from health care, law enforcement, government agencies and others. For health care professionals, continuing education credit is available.

“Mental health is an important piece in the fight against the opioid crisis and partnering with the Alabama Department of Mental Health allows us to combine our areas of expertise and have a greater reach in the state of Alabama,” said Dr. Haley Phillippe, associate clinical professor with the Harrison School of Pharmacy. “We are very thankful for the opportunity to work with ADMH.”

For more information and registration, visit AlabamaOTI.org.

Opioid Training Institute Dates and Locations

Community Members
  • May 20 & 21 – Birmingham, Hilton at UAB
  • July 23 – Huntsville, Jackson Center
  • July 24 – Cullman, Cullman Civic Center
  • July 29 – Montgomery, Hilton Garden Inn EastChase
  • July 30 – Auburn, Marriott Resort and Spa at Grand National
  • August 1 – Dothan, Windmill Station
  • August 2 – Mobile, The Battle House Renaissance Mobile Hotel
Health Care Professionals
  • June 18 & 19 – Mobile/Baldwin County, The Grand Hotel at Point Clear
  • June 26 & 27 – Huntsville, Jackson Center
  • September 11 – Troy, Sportsplex
  • September 12 – Auburn, Marriott Resort and Spa at Grand National
  • September 18 – Tuscaloosa, Bryant Conference Center
  • September 19 – Birmingham, Hyatt Regency Birmingham-The Wynfrey Hotel
Auburn and ADMH Partner to Create Opioid Training Institute