Experts across disciplines at Temple University have spent decades researching substance use disorder and working in the community to address it. So when Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney formed a task force to address the city’s opioid crisis amid an unprecedented increase in overdoses last year, Temple faculty were among the people he looked to for help.
Full-time faculty members who were tapped to join the task force for their work include Marsha Zibalese-Crawford, associate professor of social work and public health coordinator for the Office of National Drug Control Policy's Heroin Response Strategy, and Scott Burris, a professor at both the Beasley School of Law and the College of Public Health, who is director of Temple's Public Health Law Research Center. Zibalese-Crawford sits on the data analysis and sharing subcommittee of the mayor’s task force, and Burris is lending his expertise on the overdose prevention and harm reduction subcommittee.
They are among more than three dozen Temple alumni and staff serving on the 126-member Mayor's Task Force to Combat the Opioid Epidemic.
“I’m hoping we’re going to have a strategic plan to get on the ground and implement immediately,” Zibalese-Crawford said, adding that her role with the Office of National Drug Control Policy and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will help to support the plan’s implementation in Philadelphia. “We can’t wait any longer.”
Burris said initiatives around overdose prevention and harm reduction are particularly important. “I am hoping the city will take steps to develop comprehensive user engagement sites that will provide access to drug treatment, a safe consumption space, HIV testing and other health and social services,” he said. “A path to housing is particularly urgent.”
College of Public Health alumni and staff also working on the task force include Jose Benitez, SSW ’89, and Silvana Mazzella, SSW ’00, who oversee Prevention Point Philadelphia, a health clinic and syringe exchange in Kensington; Yasser Al-Khatib, nurse manager at Episcopal Hospital’s Crisis Response Center; and Mary Scullion, SSW ’87, co-founder and executive director of Project HOME.
Photography by Joseph V. Labolito.