Communities throughout the nation have been greatly affected by the opioid epidemic, and it was deemed a public health emergency nationwide in October 2017. Since many factors contribute to this crisis, addressing it requires solutions involving every level. Cooperative Extension has collaborated at the local, state, and federal levels to help communities address this critical issue.
The opioid epidemic has heavily impacted Southwest Virginia. The town of Martinsville has one of the nation's highest rates of opioid prescription. In this episode of the Connect Extension Podcast, we hear from a team of Cooperative Extension professionals and health partners who formed an opioid epidemic response group to address the epidemic in this community. Dr. Emily Zimmerman from Virginia Commonwealth University, Dr. Carlin Rafie from Virginia Tech, and community health partner Dawn Moser from the "Engaging Martinsville Community-Academic" research team talk to us about the methods, outcomes, and successes.
"Engaging Martinsville" is a two-year participatory action planning project that involves community partners and stakeholders using the Stakeholder Engagement in Question Development and prioritization method, also known as the S.E.E.D Method. The SEED Method is a multi-stakeholder approach to engaging communities in research, problem-solving, and action planning. This team's story highlights Extension at its best- Listening, connecting, and responding to a community's needs and equipping them to move forward healthier, safer, and more involved.
The SEED Method's framework brought key people and groups together to coordinate efforts and resources in order to maximize impact. We learned from Carlin, Emily, and Dawn that following the SEED method ensures that actions implemented come from an understanding of the local situation and represent the community's needs. In "Engaging Martinsville," it was essential for the team to involve those affected by the Opioid issues in every step of discovering and prioritizing the solutions for the community.
The project began by establishing community partnerships with local stakeholders to evaluate the causes impacting opioid addiction, and from there, strategies and action steps were developed. As a result, the community determined four priority initiatives, and workgroups were established to implement the initiatives. These workgroups are seeing continued success and attribute this to the SEED Method's community-based guiding principles, which contributed to a high level of trust among the community team members.
“Sometimes the work you do gets published, and you aren’t sure if anyone is going to read it or have an impact, but to be a part of a project with such tangible results really affected me to see I could be a part of a process like that.”
In this podcast interview, the team discusses how they came together to form this group, the implementation process of the SEED method in this community, and how the community responded. They also speak about the project's impact, the successes and lessons learned, and the outcomes of the efforts to curb extremely high opioid prescription and overdose rates. The team shares the most outstanding moments of the project, what they gained from being a part of it, and takeaways from working in this community. The team feels personal pride and fulfillment from seeing individuals become empowered to make a change in their communities. There is much to be gained and learned from this team, and I am so glad I got to learn more about their work and its impact on this community.
-Listen to the interview here.
-See the SEED Method Online Course and Toolkit.
-Get in touch with the team here if you're interested in learning more about the SEED Method or receiving technical support in using it.