Becnel, Way in Human Environmental Sciences Participate in Opioid Leadership Summit

Jen Becnel (left) and Kelly Way from Bumpers College's School of Human Environmental Sciences are both involved in opioid research and education.
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Jen Becnel (left) and Kelly Way from Bumpers College's School of Human Environmental Sciences are both involved in opioid research and education.

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Jen Becnel and Kelly Way, faculty members in U of A's School of Human Environmental Sciences, recently attended the National Opioid Leadership Summit in Sacramento, California.

Becnel is assistant professor of human development and family sciences in HESC, which is housed in the Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences. Way is assistant director of the school and associate professor of hospitality management. Both are involved in opioid research and education.

Becnel and Way participated in roundtable exercises on potential solutions to the opioid crisis in various populations.

The summit featured presentations by U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams along with Grant Baldwin from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Mallory O'Brien with the U.S. Department of Justice and more.

"The absolute highlight was hearing the surgeon general of the United States speak on the topic," said Becnel. "He highlighted that to move both science and communities forward, we need to start pairing health with economic initiatives because the economy is what people care about and vote on. He made a powerful statement about this with 'we are a less safe country because we are an unhealthy country.'"

The summit focused on learning, sharing and collaborating on solutions to the opioid crisis that crosses the criminal justice, health care and public health sectors, including what works on local levels, successful models and policies that can be tailored to fit specific communities, and barriers to bringing proven interventions to scale.

Becnel and Way also met several federal, state and local leaders, along with representatives from the Centers for Disease Control, the Public Health Institute, academic institutions such as the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and various local health agencies.

"It was an excellent opportunity to hear what everyone is contributing to help those burdened," said Becnel.

Becnel is a member of the external evaluation team for a Rural Health and Safety Education competitive grants program through the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Service. The grant program is supported by the United States Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

Way will be teaching a U of A Honors Forum on Opioids, which looks at the development and impact of the opioid crisis that has devastated communities across the country. In 2017, more than 72,000 people died from overdoses involving opioids and 40 percent of all opioid overdose deaths involved a prescription opioid. On average, 115 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose. The course challenges preconceptions about addiction and who can become addicted to opioids. It reviews the pharmacology of opioids, includes discussion on alternatives to opioids for pain management, considers how the epidemic affects the community and workplace, and reviews recent legislative updates.

About the Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences: Bumpers College provides life-changing opportunities to position and prepare graduates who will be leaders in the businesses associated with foods, family, the environment, agriculture, sustainability and human quality of life; and who will be first-choice candidates of employers looking for leaders, innovators, policy makers and entrepreneurs. The college is named for Dale Bumpers, former Arkansas governor and longtime U.S. senator who made the state prominent in national and international agriculture. For more information about Bumpers College, visit our website, and follow us on Twitter at @BumpersCollege and Instagram at BumpersCollege.

About the University of Arkansas: The University of Arkansas provides an internationally competitive education for undergraduate and graduate students in more than 200 academic programs. The university contributes new knowledge, economic development, basic and applied research, and creative activity while also providing service to academic and professional disciplines. The Carnegie Foundation classifies the University of Arkansas among only 2.7 percent of universities in America that have the highest level of research activity. U.S. News & World Report ranks the University of Arkansas among its top American public research universities. Founded in 1871, the University of Arkansas comprises 10 colleges and schools and maintains a low student-to-faculty ratio that promotes personal attention and close mentoring.


Robby Edwards, Director of Communications
Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences


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