August 19, 2019

SUNY Empire State College, Rockefeller Institute to Host Forum on Finding Solutions in the Opioid Crisis

Rockefeller Institute Has Found Shortage of Treatment Providers in Ongoing Study of Opioid Epidemic
Launch of SUNY Empire’s New B.S. in Addiction Studies Program Could Address Workforce Challenges


(SARATOGA SPRINGS, New York – Aug. 19, 2019) SUNY Empire State College and the Rockefeller Institute of Government are hosting a forum to focus on evidence-based solutions to effectively address the opioid crisis. The forum will be held Thursday, Sept. 26, from 3-5 p.m., at SUNY Empire’s Student Center, 111 West Ave., Saratoga Springs.

The Rockefeller Institute has been studying the opioid epidemic on the ground in rural New York for nearly two years, including conducting well over 100 interviews with people on the front lines of the crisis. Among other challenges, it has identified staffing shortages as an obstacle to successful treatment and recovery in many communities. Higher education can help meet the need for qualified addiction treatment specialists, including SUNY Empire’s first-of-its-kind bachelor’s degree in Addiction Studies, which aims to help address the urgent need for qualified substance-use disorder treatment specialists in New York state and around the country. Enrollment will begin in the spring of 2020.

“The severity of the opioid epidemic demands that all sectors of society work together to find solutions,” said Jim Malatras, president of SUNY Empire State College. “Higher education can, and therefore should, play a role in addressing this problem. Convening researchers, educators, law enforcement professionals, and others on the front lines will give us a better chance to combat the crisis, treat addiction, improve lives, and build more resilient, responsive communities.”

“Nearly two years of discussions with people on the front lines of the opioid epidemic has given us a detailed understanding of how opioids affect communities,” said Patricia Strach, interim director of the Institute and principal investigator on its ongoing Stories from Sullivan project. “The next step is to connect those insights with people in positions to make a difference, such as the higher education community. We look forward to a productive discussion and, even more importantly, practical outcomes from sharing this knowledge.”

“The opioid crisis is no longer limited to one specific location or population,” said SUNY Empire State College Associate Professor Thalia MacMillan, department chair for Human Services. “Providing students with the knowledge and skills with a 360-degree perspective on prevention, treatment, and advocacy in the addictions field within their communities is very much needed. Bringing all groups together is a phenomenal step in advancing the conversation in how we can work together to benefit our communities.” 

In addition to educators and researchers, the forum will include representatives from the local law enforcement community to discuss their insights into the shortage of treatment providers and how best to address it.

About the Rockefeller Institute of Government

The Rockefeller Institute of Government is the public policy research arm of the State University of New York. The institute conducts cutting-edge research and analysis to inform lasting solutions to the problems facing New York state and the nation.

About SUNY Empire State College

SUNY Empire State College educates more than 17,000 students in person, online, and through a blend of both, at more than 30 locations in New York and at eight international sites worldwide. Together with one of SUNY Empire’s more than 1,300 faculty mentors, each student designs their own individualized pathway to a college degree that accommodates their schedule and awards credit for prior college-level learning. SUNY Empire awards more than 3,000 degrees annually and 94 percent of graduates stay in New York state. Today, more than 87,000 SUNY Empire alumni are entrepreneurs, veterans, and active members of the military, professional athletes, teachers, medical professionals, and leaders in their field, as well as in their communities. To learn more, visit and follow the college on social media @SUNYEmpire.