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Postdoc Fellow, North Carolina Central University, Julius L. Chambers Biomedical/Biotechnology Research Institute

Dr. Dasherline Cox Johnson is the lead principal investigator for the Communiversity Developed and Tested Toolkit for Opioid Abuse Abatement at North Carolina Central University (NCCU). The Opioid-Abatement Toolkit is the product of the collaboration between North Carolina Central University (NCCU) and Together for Resilient Youth (TRY), sponsored by the North Carolina Collaboratory.

Toolkit for Opioid Abuse Abatement

The project aims to help communities lower misuse, overdoses, and deaths from opioids by providing accurate, understandable, and motivating information. To reduce such a health crisis, an exhaustive literature review was conducted, assessing subject areas known by community leaders and professionals at NCCU. Dr. Johnson and her team sought community input throughout the development of the project, especially geared to minority groups to bridge gaps and reduce health disparities. They held two focus groups to evaluate the toolkit to further shape and improve it for effectiveness and responsiveness to local concerns.

Dr. Dasherline Johnson

“Armed with information and instructions, toolkit users will know how to respond to an overdose and discover ways to help our children and teens learn about the dangers of opioids.”

Dr. Dasherline Johnson

What influenced you to create this toolkit?

We read of the devastating numbers of people dying in our community and felt there had to be a way to reach them and stem this death cycle. We heard the personal stories of those in our community discussing the impact fentanyl was having on their families. We felt compelled to translate the research reviewed into information that people could connect with and be motivated by. We wanted to see more people motivated to contribute in small yet meaningful ways and let them know that a larger group can contribute in larger, more meaningful, specific ways as well. We heard about the growing stress among all segments of the community and the special hazards that such stress has on the minority community, and we felt compelled to discover how to help our fellow citizens.

What is the value of this research to citizens across North Carolina?

This research and the accompanying activities are intended to motivate citizens across North Carolina to add to their life-saving strategies and hopefully reduce opioid misuse, overdose, and deaths. Armed with information and instructions, toolkit users will know how to respond to an overdose and discover ways to help our children and teens learn about the dangers of opioids. Research presented in the toolkit is intended to be more “digestible” so people have the information needed to make informed choices and, we hope, choose solutions that will promote health and wellbeing.

What are the main takeaway points your research has unveiled?

This project emphasizes the following five key takeaway points:

  • Individual isolation
  • Dangers of opioids
  • Treatment is available
  • The power of collaboration
  • Overcome adverse childhood experiences

What are the next steps for your research, and what do you hope to focus on in the coming year related to this topic?

In the upcoming year, our research team aims to pursue several key objectives. Firstly, we will closely monitor how our information is utilized, identifying any barriers to its effectiveness, and ensuring its relevance for diverse groups, including but not limited to pre- teens and veterans. Secondly, there might also be a special unit for preschool children that helps address ACES. Without intervention, these children become prime targets for substance abuse and mental health issues as they get older. Perhaps their propensity toward substance abuse might be halted or at least slowed by attention early on. Thirdly, we aim to develop a “train-the- trainer” module to facilitate implementation in various communities and gather feedback for further improvement.
Additionally, we will consider enhancing training for specific subgroups, such as staff in correctional facilities, to ensure the relevance of substance abuse interventions. Furthermore, we will establish strong community partnerships for collaborative implementation and testing and explore the value of regular exercise as a strategy for opioid dependence, potentially incorporating relevant recommendations into our toolkit.