Emory Report
May 9, 2005
Volume 57, Number 30


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May 9 , 2005
Task forces to tackle community wellness

BY Eric Rangus

President Jim Wagner has green-lighted a pair of task forces, one on mental health and the other on alcohol and drug abuse, charged with collecting data on campus and prioritizing community needs in both areas. Formed in April, both task forces will work this summer to do just that.

“In our initial meeting, the president spoke very eloquently about what kind of place Emory University is,” said Michael Huey, executive director of Student Health Services and a member of the President’s Task Force on Alcohol and Other Drugs, as it is formally known. The two task forces are separate entities and will provide separate reports, but they have pooled some resources.

“There is a very moral and ethical view here about alcohol and other drugs,” Huey continued. “It’s not a case that Emory should be abstinent, but it should be a place whose people wouldn’t let friends or co-workers lose their jobs, positions or even their lives as a result of alcohol or other drugs.”

Joining Huey on that task force is Senior Vice Provost for Academic Planning and Faculty Development Claire Sterk and Karen Drexler, director of substance abuse treatment and assistant professor of psychiatry.

Mark McLeod, director of the Counseling Center, chairs the President’s Task Force on Mental Health, and he is joined by co-chair Paula Gomes, director of the Faculty Staff Assistance Program; Thom Bornemann, director of The Carter Center’s Mental Health Program; Ben Druss, associate professor of health policy management in the Rollins School of Public Health; and psychiatry Professor Steven Levy.

The small, nimble task forces are charged with collecting data from faculty, staff and students regarding, for the one group, the most serious mental health challenges facing the campus community, and, for the other, the proliferation of substance abuse across Emory.

There already is a good bit of data available regarding these subjects, not only specific to Emory but with a national focus, as well. However, it is scattered. Part of the task forces’ jobs will be compiling information into a useful form. Both task forces will conduct focus-group research as well. Once the data is collected, the task forces will prioritize the issues, and those at the top will be the first tackled.

The task forces’ final plans will include not only this prioritization, but also will identify both available and additional resources necessary to meet the campus’ needs and a time line for implementation.

“In a general way, it’s important for the people in mental health to have a seat at the table when decisions are being made about the well-being of our community,” McLeod said. “This task force is a great way to do that.”

“The president asked us to look at alcohol consumption and the use of other drugs among Emory faculty, staff and students in terms of prevention, policy enforcement and treatment,” Huey said. “There is specific emphasis on prevention.”

The majority of the task forces’ work will be completed over the summer, but both McLeod and Huey said they would continue into the fall if necessary.