Tillman heads Campbell’s involvement in national ‘Reaching Rural’ opioid initiative

Dr. David Tillman, chair of Campbell University’s Department of Public Health and associate professor, is one of seven community leaders in Harnett County selected to take part in the inaugural class of the national Reaching Rural: Advancing Collaborative Solutions Initiative

Co-sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the State Justice Institute, the initiative will support Harnett County’s work to address the overdose crisis that has disproportionately affected communities throughout the country. 

Tillman joins Coley Price from the Harnett County Manager’s office, Christopher Appel from the county’s legal department, John Rouse from the health department, Jeffrey Armstrong from the sheriff’s office, Jermaine White from Harnett County Schools and Mark Morris from Good Hope Hospital in the initiative to “create bold solutions to combat local substance abuse challenges.” 

“As a citizen of Harnett County for more than 20 years, I am proud of the county leaders and the county commissioners who have decided to take a thoughtful, strategic approach with this funding,” Tillman said. “I think Campbell University can be a valuable partner in helping Harnett County become an example of best practices in substance use and overdose prevention in a rural context — from primary prevention to treatment and harm reduction.”

Harnett County is one of only eight jurisdictions in the country selected to participate in the Reaching Rural Initiative. Coinciding with Tillman’s inclusion, Public Health students from Campbell are conducting informant interviews with dozens of community stakeholders to map the assets in the county and identify critical gaps. 

Tillman has been involved in response to the opioid crisis for over a decade, serving recently in Project Lazarus, on the N.C. Opioid and Prescription Drug Abuse Advisory Committee and convening the Recovering Hope Conference held at Campbell University in 2019.

“We are grateful to Dr. Tillman for finding this Reaching Rural opportunity and putting together the application on behalf of the county,” said Price. “His vision for a comprehensive response and his awareness of these kinds of grant funding opportunities are going to help us put together a coordinated system of support in our community.”

Rouse said Tillmans’ leadership and Campbell University’s involvement key to the county’s strategic response to overdose prevention. 

“Community and provider education is a vital component to our overall opioid response,” he said. “Campbell is a valuable partner in improving the health of our county.”

The next steering committee meeting for the group will be held Feb. 9, where the Public Health students’ interview data will be shared. The Reaching Rural Task Force will be in Washington, D.C., Feb. 21-24 for a working session with other agencies and counties involved. Dr. Robert Agnello, assistant professor of family medicine for the Jerry M. Wallace School of Osteopathic Medicine, will provide an educational session on March 27 to discuss the local impacts of opioid use disorder.