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Campus Awareness of Addiction and the Opioid Crisis

Posted on January 26th, 2018

One of my favorite annual committee assignments is serving on our Outstanding Service Awards Selection Committee here at Owens. This is the committee that selects the award winners among nominations of police officers, firefighters, emergency medical professionals for our annual recognition ceremony. Reviewing the nominations is always a moving and emotional experience for me; the bravery and selfless dedication of the first responders in our community is nothing short of amazing.

This year’s set of nominations contained a large number of community tragedies involving opioids and overdose, including an off-campus response by our own Owens Community College Police Department. The impact of the opioid epidemic is being felt across our service district here at Owens, and we need to do everything that we can to address it. One of the best things we can do is something in which we excel: learning.

In September of last year, I attended an excellent presentation on the local impact of the opioid crisis here in Northwest Ohio by Wood County Sheriff Mark Waslyshyn. In November, General Counsel Lisa Nagel and our Department of Public Safety hosted an event for our campus community on this important subject with Sheriff Waslyshyn as the speaker. This event is one of many that we plan to promote as a way to build awareness about the crisis among our faculty, staff and students.

Sheriff Waslyshyn is also a member of the Outstanding Service Awards Selection Committee, and our group had an important discussion about the increasing number of overdose incidents reflected in the nominations. During the conversation, he showed us the dose of Narcan that he and his officers carry with them at all times. I asked if I could snap a photo with my phone in order to share with our community:

This simple nasal dose of Narcan can save a life in an overdose situation. In fact, I learned this morning that some intense overdoses may require several administrations of Narcan in order to be effective. I am very appreciative for the Sheriff’s efforts to inform our college community about this crisis.

NOTE: My many years as a classroom teacher and a faculty nomenclator at graduation have translated into a strong desire to pronounce people’s names correctly. I may not always succeed, but I always make my best attempt. If you happen to meet the Sheriff out in the community, know that his name is pronounced: “VAH-shuh-LISH-uhn.”

Our Service District and Drug Overdose Deaths

Earlier this month, an excellent article in University Business began with some shocking Ohio statistics about drug overdoses.  Jennifer Smola from the Columbus Dispatch noted that over 4,300 Ohioans died of drug overdoses in 2016: a number larger than the entire freshman class at Ohio University, and also larger than the number of students who walked in graduation at Ohio State. Of those 2016 overdose deaths, 233 occurred in the counties within our service district: 157 in Lucas; 21 in Wood; 19 in Hancock; 14 in Ottawa; and 22 in Sandusky. From 2011-2016, these same counties accounted for 849 overdose deaths, according to an excellent report by the Ohio Department of Health.

The graph above appears in that same report and expresses overdose death rates by county. As you can see, other regions of the state are more severely impacted, but the effect of the opioid crisis on our service area is significant. As college employees, it is important that we build campus awareness about this growing problem.

As the Ohio Department of Health 2016 Drug Overdose Data report demonstrates, one of the major factors in the dramatic rise in deaths is a single compound: Fentanyl. Consider the following graph found on page 5 of the report.

This is one of many graphs and charts that attempt to make sense of the tragic data on overdose deaths in our state. I encourage members of our campus community to have a look at the report and become aware of this major crisis.

What Can Community Colleges Do?

Recently, Board Chair Dee Talmage sent me an excellent article from the Fall 2017 edition of Trustee Quarterly entitled “Addiction, Recovery, and Student Success” by Michael R. Deleon, a trustee at Cumberland County College in New Jersey. The subtitle of Trustee Deleon’s article is “Community colleges are well positioned to take the lead in solutions.” Two of his specific recommendations are worth highlighting here. One is building awareness among faculty and staff. The presentation in November by Sheriff Waslyshyn is an excellent start, and we will continue to plan and promote initiatives that build awareness. A second suggestion made by Trustee Deleon is that college administrators should be aware of community resources on addiction and inform students about them. Our informational web page on Alcohol and Drugs contains this information, but it is worth re-printing here:

  • Arrowhead Behavioral Health – (800) 547-5695
  • Behavioral Connections of Wood County: (419) 352-5387 — Wood County
  • Century Health South Campus (Findlay), 419-425-5050
  • Comprehensive Addiction Services System: (419) 241-8827 — Lucas and Wood County
  • Rescue Mental Health and Addiction Services, Contact them 24/7, 419-255-9585
  • St. Charles Hospital: (419) 696-7523 — Lucas and Wood County
  • Substance Abuse Services Inc.: (419) 243-7274, Toledo Hospital — Wood County
  • Toledo Hospital – Alcohol & Drug Treatment: (419) 291-2300 — Lucas and Wood County

I will add one more to this list for Findlay/Hancock County:

  • Hancock County Board of Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services – Crisis Hotline: (888) 936-7116

Putting a Face on the Crisis

At a recent meeting of the Regional Growth Partnership (RGP), outgoing RGP Chair Doug Pontsler showed a video about the opioid crisis.  Doug will be retiring from Owens Corning where he currently serves as Vice President for Environmental Health and Safety. Doug ends every meeting of the RGP with a “safety share,” and a few of these information items have been related to opioids over the time I have served on the RGP Board. I found this video particularly moving:

In closing, I encourage everyone here at Owens to learn as much as you can about the crisis we face with opioids and addiction. While we may not have residence halls or places where students and others frequently use illegal drugs, this is an issue that impacts our entire community and the region. The more we know about the crisis, the better we can serve our students and our communities.

Steve Robinson, Ph.D.
Interim President

 


2018 Rossford High School Update

Posted on January 12th, 2018

As we make our way through more challenging Winter weather here at the beginning of the semester, I would like to provide an update for employees about the potential to host Rossford High School on the Perrysburg campus in 2018. Directly below is an update as of today; the rest of this blog entry contains information from previous updates to our campus community about the potential hosting arrangement.

UPDATE: January 12, 2018

Owens remains committed to hosting Rossford High School under the terms we have been discussing with the District for over a year. On Thursday 1/11/2018, however, the District notified us that it is currently exploring other options in the area. We understand that both entities must make decisions which are best for their respective stakeholders and taxpayers. Discussions continue on the draft lease agreement that was provided to Rossford in October. I will update our internal community about the status of that lease agreement as the situation develops.

Background

NOTE: This information has been shared previously here on my blog; I wanted to re-post an updated version for employees who may not have seen it back in September.

As many of you know, teams from Rossford City Schools and Owens Community College have been meeting to discuss the possibility of hosting Rossford High School while the district completes a major construction project in late 2018. The specific spaces under consideration are in AVCC/Math & Science/SHAC/Library, and CFPA. The time frame of the hosting arrangement would be limited: approximately one academic year to 18 months. This would not be a permanent arrangement. In addition to furthering our partnership with Rossford, the hosting arrangement will provide rental income for the college during a time of decreased space utilization. A draft lease agreement was provided to Rossford in October 2017, but it has not been finalized or executed.

A team of stakeholders, including representatives from impacted areas, has been meeting regularly to plan for the hosting possibility. When facilities has a specific lease agreement and timeline, formal communications will be sent to the campus community.

Previous Updates

September 25, 2017

After the most recent meeting with Rossford about the potential hosting/lease arrangement, the Marketing & Communications has set up a “landing page” on the Owens intranet for updates on this issue. As new details are finalized, information will be posted at the following address on the intranet: https://intranet.owens.edu/rossford/

May 5, 2017

Owens is committed to our partnership with Rossford, and we are planning ways to be prepared for a lease arrangement during this important transition. We are currently identifying spaces on our Perrysburg campus for the potential hosting of Rossford High School in the Fall of 2018. The specific arrangements and lease provisions have not been finalized.

As before, if employees have questions or concerns about the possibility of hosting Rossford, I would be happy to talk with you and/or connect you with the appropriate Owens department that handles a specific issue. During my 15 years as a full-time community college faculty member, I taught in a building that also hosted a K-12 high school. I found this to be a rewarding and enriching teaching environment; in fact, I co-taught 11th grade for a few years and this was some of the most rewarding time I have spent in a classroom.

Steve Robinson, Ph.D.
Interim President

 


First Day of Spring 2018

Posted on January 8th, 2018

Welcome Back!

Today is the first day of class for Spring 2018! Mother Nature had other plans, however, as a wintry mix of snow and ice created snow emergency conditions across our College district and the region. Following our Severe Weather Policy, our team made the decision to delay opening of all Campuses and locations to noon, and a notice went out to our entire campus community at 6:12 a.m.

By the time I arrived early this morning, the red plow trucks and giant Caterpillar snow pushers had already cleared most of the snow from the Toledo-area campus. Since it will be a few hours before our locations are actually open, I thought I’d create a blog entry on the decision process regarding weather-related campus closures. But first…

Special thanks to our fantastic Facilities crew for their expert work in clearing the snow from our parking lots, side streets and walkways. They were out working to make this campus safe before most of us were out of bed this morning; well done!

Our Owens Community College Severe Weather Policy can be found here:

https://www.owens.edu/news/weather.html

This page contains information for how to sign up for Owens Alerts via text, phone, and e-mail. I strongly recommend that all students and staff register for these emergency notifications. You may also check local media, and our social media accounts such as Facebook and Twitter.

Safety of Students and Employees is First

The decision to close the College or delay a start time is always a serious one, especially on the first day of classes, but the safety of our people is always the number one consideration. During my entire career, campus closure decisions have either directly impacted my teaching and work, or have been part of my job responsibility. While these decisions might seem simple, they are not. A number of important factors must be considered, including conditions on campus, local roadways, as well as other the open/close status of other higher education and K-12 institutions. Our Facilities and Public Safety teams monitor all kinds of weather and traffic data to determine conditions.

One helpful element for snow-related college closing is the classification systems used by the State of Ohio. The following Snow Emergency Classifications are used state-wide:

LEVEL 1: Roadways are hazardous with blowing and drifting snow. Roads may also be icy. Motorists are urged to drive very cautiously.

LEVEL 2: Roadways are hazardous with blowing and drifting snow. Roads may also be very icy. Only those who feel it is necessary to drive should be out on the roads. Contact your employer to see if you should report to work. Motorists should use extreme caution.

LEVEL 3: All roadways are closed to non-emergency personnel. No one should be driving during these conditions unless it is absolutely necessary to travel or a personal emergency exists. All employees should contact their employer to see if they should report to work. Those traveling on the roads may subject themselves to arrest.

During Level 3 conditions, the decision on campus closure is made for us. The difficult decisions arise when campus is clear, but Level 2 conditions exist. As I write this, Hancock, Wood, Ottawa and Sandusky Counties are at Level 1; Lucas County remains at Level 2. Bowling Green State University and the University of Toledo are open.

NOTE: I have known about the Snow Emergency Classifications since I moved to Ohio, but I was unaware that Ohio has a Committee for Severe Weather Awareness. The Committee was formed in 1978. That’s pretty neat!

In my experience, nearly any decision on a weather-related closure will be unpopular with some. When I was the Dean of Health Sciences at my previous college, the faculty and staff never wanted to cancel classes given the required clinical hours for their programs; conversely, faculty and staff who lived far away from campus were often concerned when the college remained open during inclement weather. And we always know that individual family schedules can be disrupted when local K-12 schools are cancelled for weather-related transportation problems. My approach has been to gather as much accurate information as possible from a variety of stakeholders, then make a timely and unambiguous decision. Once a decision is made, it is important to communicate that information as widely as possible.

While this isn’t the start we planned for our Spring 2018 semester, I want to wish everyone a great first day of class. Thank you for understanding about the weather-related delay. If you see any of our Facilities and Public Safety crew on campus today, please extend a special thank you for their great work in making our campuses and locations safe for learning!

Steve Robinson, Ph.D.
Interim President

 


Sexual Harassment Is Not Tolerated at Owens

Posted on January 3rd, 2018

Welcome to 2018!

At the risk of seeming like a workaholic, I don’t mind sharing that I spent time over the holiday break thinking about the subject for my first blog entry of the New Year–even while on vacation in the Wasatch Mountains. Given the recent attention to sexual misconduct and harassment in the workplace, I decided to address this important issue at the beginning of the year to signal how seriously we take this issue here at Owens.

In several industries around the world, 2017 saw a kind of unmasking of sexual misconduct and harassment that had lurked below the surface in the workplace for many years, especially in the areas of entertainment and politics. Higher education was a part of this tipping point as well; several colleges and universities had high-profile incidents of sexual misconduct and harassment in 2017, including my alma mater Michigan State University. Even well-intentioned and competent leaders can handle these issues poorly. Such incidents raise important questions about institutional culture and the role that leaders play in addressing sexual misconduct and harassment. As I looked out from about 9,000 feet on Mount Ogden in Utah, I thought deeply about our culture here at Owens and what my responsibility was as Interim President.

Why Address This Issue Out of the Blue?

Based on my long career in higher education and the training I have received on this subject, I think the most important thing I can say from my position is this: Owens Community College strongly opposes and will not tolerate sexual misconduct or harassment. Period. I firmly believe this, but these are not my personal words; it is a fairly direct paraphrase of our actual Board policy on the subject, which also states:

“The college recognizes all employees and students should be able to work and learn in safety and dignity and should not have to endure insulting, degrading or objectionable treatment.”

Our anti-harassment and discrimination policy is quite strong, and if you have not had a chance to read it, I encourage you to do so. Having a policy is one thing, but it important to build a culture surrounding that policy. In June of 2016, the U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC) published an important task force report on harassment in the workplace. In this report, the task force authors state that the tone for a culture that rejects sexual harassment and misconduct is set at the top of the organization:

“Workplace culture has the greatest impact on allowing harassment to flourish, or conversely, in preventing harassment. The importance of leadership cannot be overstated – effective harassment prevention efforts, and workplace culture in which harassment is not tolerated, must start with and involve the highest level of management of the company.”

So that is why my first blog entry of the year concerns this very timely topic. I want to do everything I can to establish that our workplace culture has no tolerance for harassment.

#MeToo / It’s On Us

From my perspective as Interim President, our institution has taken proactive measures to address sexual misconduct and harassment. Sadly, we have had incidents of sexual misconduct during my time in the President’s Office, and I have been proud of the empathy and professionalism displayed by our employees who work directly in this area. While it is important that College systems and leadership respond to issues as they arise, it is equally important that we work on this important problem when there is no incident at hand. That is why I am writing this blog entry: to remind our college community of the importance of a workplace free of sexual harassment and misconduct, and that all incidents of sexual harassment and misconduct should be reported to Human Resources.

In closing, please let me direct you to our Owens Community College policies and procedures regarding sexual misconduct and harassment. As I write this, I feel like the flight attendant inviting you to review the safety features of the aircraft that can be found in the seat pocket in front of you. Still, I sincerely feel that all Owens employees should read these short policies and procedures.

Anti-Discrimination and Harassment Policy
https://www.owens.edu/trustees/board_policies/11-4-17.pdf

Sexual Misconduct Procedures
https://www.owens.edu/trustees/procedures/proc3358-11-4-17-titleIX.pdf

These are excellent documents, and they provide an appropriate structure for us to build a shared understanding about this issue as an organization. But in order for them to be effective, our lived culture must match what we say in words. Together, let’s build and maintain a culture that lives out these policies.

Welcome to the Spring 2018 semester… have a great year!

Steve Robinson, Ph.D.
Interim President