Five Policy Proposals to Prevent Opioid Use Disorder
April 30, 2018
Penn Wharton PPI selects its case competition prompts to be not only timely, but to engage students from varying academic disciplines. This year’s competition elicited submissions from 26 teams, encompassing over 80 students—both graduate and undergraduate—from several schools across Penn, including Wharton, Law, Arts and Sciences, Social Policy and Practice, Medicine, and Engineering and Applied Science.
Of the 26 teams that submitted entries, the top 5 made it to the finals on April 6, where each of them delivered a 10-minute presentation and engaged in 10 minutes of additional Q&A with a distinguished panel of judges, which included Abby Alpert, Assistant Professor of Health Care Management at Wharton; Jean Bennet, Regional Administrator for Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) in the US Department of Health and Human Services; Michael Brownlie, Deputy Chief of Staff and Legislative Director for Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema (D-ZA-9); Jeffrey Hom, Policy Advisor for the Philadelphia Department of Public Health; and Grace Kindt, Prevention Section Chief in the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
In the end, it was the team of Blanca Castro, Jessica Irvine, Nadia Malik, and Sam Margolius—all students from the School of Social Policy and Practice—who took top honors, as well as the grand prize of $5,000, for a comprehensive proposal that would use the treatment of childhood trauma within the public school system as means of reducing the risk of opioid abuse and addiction. The team of Devika Bhalla (WG’18), Gina Cotter (M’21), Michael Ruan (W’18), and Emily Zhen (W’18, C’18) earned second place with their design of a system to change physician prescribing practices through the use of specific behavioral “nudges.” Third place went to Serena Dasani (WG’19, M’19), Jenny Jarboe (WG’19), Louise Li (WG’19) and Alexander Suarez (M’18), for a proposal that used an opioid buy-back program to fund an abuse prevention education initiative.
While the judges saw different strengths in each of the five proposals that made it to the final round, the winning one stood out to them as being the most implementable for addressing in the short run what has become a spiraling public health crisis. Dr. Jean Bennet from SAMHSA in particular has emerged as a champion, and in May, the winning team will be presenting their ideas at a meeting of all the regional SAMHSA Administrators—hopefully a first step in putting their plan into action.