2018 Public Policy Case Competition
February 16, 2018
5th Annual Case Competition:
Opiate and Opioid Use Prevention
The United States is in the midst of an opioid overdose epidemic, as declared by President Trump and evidenced by the death of 91 Americans every day from opioid overdose. That number quadrupled between 1999 and 2015, and the crisis shows no signs of abating. In 2016, enough prescriptions for opioids were written to give every adult in the U.S. his or her own vial. Opioid overdoses killed more people in the U.S. in 2016 than died in this country’s worst year for gun deaths, worst year for car accidents, or worst year of HIV/AIDS deaths—and more than the number of all U.S. soldiers killed in the entirety of the Vietnam War. An estimate from the Council of Economic Advisors finds that the crisis has cost approximately $504 billion dollars.
While much attention has been paid to the death and destruction caused by addiction (and rightfully so), preventing new cases of opioid abuse and addiction must also be a focus of policymakers. Currently there are many initiatives that attempt to prevent rather than just mitigate the effects of opioid use disorder. While an estimated 2 million Americans had opioid use disorder in 2015, 2.1 million misused prescription opioids for the first time that year, and another 135,000 tried heroin for the first time, meaning there is still a desperate need to contain the spread of opioid use disorder.
While marijuana might not be a gateway drug, as previously claimed, it seems clear that prescription opioids are. Nationally, 80% of all opioid misuse starts with using a prescription medication. And addiction, sadly, is a disease of the young, with 90% of all addictions beginning in adolescence and young adulthood. Clear connections also exist between addiction and childhood trauma, mental illness, and economic insecurity. Opioid use disorder, therefore, is not only a medical problem but a social and economic one, and efforts to combat it must take these factors into account.
Develop a specific government policy or program (at the local, state, or federal level) that would prevent (as opposed to treat) opioid use disorder. This policy can focus on the supply side (i.e., the pharmaceutical industry, medical professionals, insurance companies, or other purveyors/distributors), or on the demand side (i.e., potential licit and illicit opioid consumers), and can address business or government policy.
Beyond describing the policy or program itself, your proposal must devote some attention to defining the causes of opioid use disorder that the policy/program will redress. It also must place your ideas into the context of any previous or current policies/programs that are similar in scope or design.
In addition, a successful proposal must provide an economic analysis that:
- Projects the economic and social impact of the policy or program. (In other words, while you can choose to direct your proposal at the local, state, or federal level, you should explain why you are focusing on that level of operation, and should project per capita costs of operation.)
- Assesses the costs of implementation.
- Offers a funding model for covering those implementation costs.
- Indicates metrics of success.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - Opioid Overdose, Understanding the Epidemic
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services - National Opioids Crisis
- Alexander, Brian. “When a Company Is Making Money From the Opioid Crisis.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 6 Sept. 2017.
- U.S. Congress, Joint Economic Committee, Economic Aspects of the Opioid Crisis, hearing transcript.
- City of Philadelphia, The Mayor’s Task Force to Combat the Opioid Epidemic in Philadelphia (PDF)
- PA Opioid Overdose Reduction, Technical Assistance Center, Overdose Free PA
- Slides from “The Opioid Epidemic: Where we are and how we got here,” event. (PDF)
- Registration is now closed. Students who wanted to participate were required to sign-up by 11:59 PM, February 25, 2018.
- Students must work in teams of 3-4.
- All team members must be enrolled as undergraduate or graduate students at Penn.
- All submissions must follow University standards regarding Academic Integrity, including the proper citation of all source materials.
- All submissions must be submitted electronically to firstname.lastname@example.org by 11:59pm on Tuesday, March 20.
- Up to five finalists will be selected. All teams will be notified of their status by 11:59pm on Monday, March 26. Finalists must deliver a 15-minute presentation to a panel of judges on Friday, April 6.
- Abby Alpert: Assistant Professor of Health Care Management, The Wharton School (confirmed)
- Jean Bennett: Regional Administrator, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (confirmed)
- Michael Brownlie: Deputy Chief of Staff and Legislative Director for Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-ZA-9) (confirmed)
- Jeffrey Hom: Policy Advisor, Philadelphia Department of Public Health (confirmed)
- Grace Kindt: Prevention Section Chief, Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs (confirmed)
FORMAT FOR SUBMISSIONS
Policy proposals must be submitted as PDF documents, with the names of all team members given on a front title page. The interior pages should not contain any team member’s name. This will help us ensure anonymous judging when we review them. Proposals may be no more than 2000 words in length and may contain up to 6 exhibits.