Abstract for:Building Policymaker Capacity to Address the Opioid Epidemic Using Systems Mapping

More than 2.4 million people in the U.S., meet the criteria for severe opioid use disorder, involving prescribed opioids, heroin or both.  Since 2013, drug overdose deaths have overtaken death by motor vehicle as the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S.  (Vashishtha, Mittal and Werb 2017).  The opioid crisis has been declared a public health emergency in the U.S.  (https://www.hhs.gov/about/news/2017/10/26/hhs-acting-secretary-declares-public-health-emergency-address-national-opioid-crisis.html).  Addressing health policy issues requires diving into a complex and dynamic system of systems.  Not recognizing this can lead to failed health policies, and negative, unintended consequences.  (Sterman 2006; Wutzke, Morrice, Benton and Wilson 2016). 

Because tackling such complex challenges requires new conversations, collaborations and insights, the Georgia Health Policy Center (GHPC) has been using systems thinking principles and tools to help policymaker see the bigger picture of various health policy challenges they face. (Powell, Kibbe, Ferencik, Soderquist, Phillips, Vall and Minyard 2017; Minyard, Ferencik, Phillips and Soderquist 2013).  Beginning in 2016, GHPC began working with state legislators to use systems thinking to address the opioid epidemic. Interest in the opioid systems map developed in 2016 has recently evolved to how it might apply to a statewide, multi-sector strategic planning process to address this crisis.