Addressing an Epidemic In the Midst of a Pandemic: Virtual Opioid Abuse and Mental/Behavioral Health


The COVID-19 global pandemic has intensified what currently exists in the world (i.e. unemployment, lack of sufficient healthcare, disparaging health outcomes, etc.) in which communities are struggling with and has added an extra layer of concern for many. More specifically, there is currently an opioid epidemic that exists and has been a public health emergency for decades; and then couple that with the mental/behavioral health issues that plague communities worldwide. On Saturday, March 6, 2021, all seventy-one (71) high school, undergraduate and health professional HCOP students attended our 2020-2021 Virtual Opioid Abuse and Mental/Behavioral Health Panel – The program included several icebreakers to loosen everyone up before touching on such a heavy topic: defining/understanding terms related to the topics (opioid abuse and mental/behavioral health) to be covered, and questions/concerns surrounding the Opioid and mental Health epidemic in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.


Opioid abuse and mental/behavioral health are recurring topics within the health professional realm. Some may think that they are mutually exclusive; however, in today’s world they are not. In order to shed light on the public health emergency, the HCOP team, were able to recruit a panel of local healthcare providers, mental health professionals and organizations with a goal to prepare our HCOP students for the real world scenarios they will deal with as healthcare professionals as it relates to opioid abuse and mental/behavioral health.


The panel included the following experts:


Carey Pomykata

Coalition Rx/Dillon’s House

Executive Director/Co-Founder


Donna Polk, PhD, LIMHP

Nebraska Urban Indian Health Coalition

Chief Executive Officer


Dr. Donna Stewart, PhD

Boys Town Behavioral Health Clinic

Staff Psychologist


Kenya Love, MPH

UNMC College of Public Health Center for Reducing Health Disparities

Community Health Program Manager


Dr. Wayne Tate, PharmD, MBA

Charles Drew Health Center, Inc.

Senior Director of Pharmacy Services

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