SIUE graduate student Allison Benware, Nancy Cooper, chief probation officer in the Madison County Superior Court for Drug Treatment; Dr. Jeremy Jewell and SIUE graduate student Janna Belgard.
President Obama has declared the week of Sept. 19-23 Prescription Opioid and Heroin Epidemic Awareness Week, acknowledging the rise in drug overdose deaths across the country.
Locally, heroin has infiltrated Madison County, contributing to 44 confirmed overdose deaths in 2015, a 50 percent increase compared to the prior year.
Southern Illinois University Edwardsville’s Jeremy Jewell, professor of psychology in the School of Education, Health and Human Behavior, is working to combat the epidemic through treatment programming.
This aligns with the presidential proclamation: “This week, we reaffirm our commitment to raising awareness about this disease and supporting prevention and treatment programs. Let us ensure everyone with an opioid use disorder can embark on the road to recovery, and together, let us begin to turn the tide of this epidemic.”
Jewell and his research team, including SIUE graduate students Allison Benware and Jenna Belgard, and former graduate student assistant Meaghan Malherek, have collaborated with Nancy Cooper, chief probation officer in the Madison County Superior Court for Drug Treatment Alternative Court Division, as well as Madison County Circuit Judge Kyle Napp, to implement and measure the effects of a 14-month drug court program.
Through the court, Jewell and his colleagues have facilitated diversified treatment opportunities for Madison County drug abuse victims under a previous federal grant, Project Safe Recovery, and the team’s current federally funded research initiative, Project New Direction.
“Providing treatment for drug use is incredibly important,” Jewell said. “I was at a drug court graduation two years ago, and a graduate who was a young mother stepped to the podium with her daughter in her arms. She thanked those involved for giving her a second chance. Then the child leaned to the microphone and said, ‘Thank you for giving me my mommy back.’
According to Cooper, heroin does not know a socioeconomic group. It crosses all barriers.
“It doesn’t matter if someone is rich or poor, educated or uneducated, they are becoming addicted to this drug,” she said. “The data Dr. Jewell collects and interprets for us is important because it reveals areas for improvement, solutions for helping our drug court clients be more successful in sobriety and reveals concerns of overdosing or mental illness.”
The SIUE Graduate School’s Fall 2016 Research and Creative Activities publication details this programming, and Jewell’s associated data, which confirms the long-term effectiveness of drug court.
For more information on National Prescription Opioid and Heroin Epidemic Awareness Week, visit getsmartaboutdrugs.com.