Collective Impact Model for Change empowers local communities to tackle opioid addiction

Daniel Kington
December 15, 2017

Over the past 15 years, increasing rates of opioid abuse have devastated communities throughout the United States. In 2016 alone, 11 million Americans misused prescription opioids, nearly one million used heroin and 2.1 million had an opioid use disorder due to prescription opioids or heroin. Ohio has been hit particularly hard by the opioid crisis: driven mainly by opioid-related overdoses concentrated in impoverished communities, Ohio’s death rate from drug poisoning skyrocketed by 642 percent from 2000 to 2015. In partnership with the state and federal governments, the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs is one of many players in the region working to improve the situation in the short-term and identify long-term solutions.

Earlier this year, the Voinovich School’s Community Health, Prevention and Promotion team received $560,000 from the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, allocated through the federal government’s 21st Century Cures Act, passed in 2016. The School will use some of these funds to expand existing work supporting children with incarcerated parents and youth-led prevention initiatives. However, the School will direct the vast majority of the funding toward the Statewide Community Collective Impact Model for Change, a project led by OhioMHAS with the collaboration of the School, the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation (PIRE), and the Prevention Institute.

The collective impact model targets 12 Ohio counties that are among the most affected by opioid addiction, bringing together entities in each county in prevention, treatment and recovery. Participants will collaborate at the local level to develop and execute data-driven, overarching plans to increase access to treatment for those suffering from opioid use disorder, address unmet treatment needs and ultimately reduce opioid-related deaths. 

“In the past, folks in prevention, treatment and recovery have competed for funding,” said Holly Raffle, Voinovich School associate professor who is coordinating the School’s involvement in the project. “This project marks a time where we’re bringing people together to acknowledge that we all have the same goal, and that we’re all needed, but that we have to look at the data relevant to our community in order to see how we can best allocate our collective resources.”

The Voinovich School, along with PIRE, will assist these community-based collaborations by offering training and technical assistance, evaluating their efforts, ensuring that each community’s plan is based on data for short-term and long-term outcomes, and working with communities to build their teams and develop strategic plans. While various organizations will convene partners at the local level, the Voinovich School will work at the regional level, encouraging communities to learn from one another by facilitating in-person, group meetings every other month, with virtual meetings in between.

“The Voinovich School is committed to project-based learning, and we’re really infusing that methodology into our work with these communities,” Raffle said. “This is a methodology that allows local partners to co-create the tools to respond to their own community contexts, which we hope will build strong, sustainable and co-creative change.”

In addition to addressing the immediate consequences of opioid use disorder in their communities, the project will allow each local partnership to begin tackling one underlying issue—such as poverty, which the partnership identifies as having contributed to the trauma that led to increased rates of addiction within that area.

“Not only are we dealing with the issues in a real, tangible way, but we’re creating a space where communities can use the same skills to explore and respond to underlying community trauma with collective responsibility,” Raffle said.

Although the project is still in its beginning stages, Raffle hopes that as local communities respond to both immediate and long-term community-needs, participants will develop the skills, capacities and resources necessary to pursue their goals beyond the funding period.

“The process will provide participants concrete experiences in leadership, so that, at the end of the day, the Voinovich School can walk away from these projects with the knowledge that they can self-sustain,” Raffle said.