Community in Crisis: Confronting Our Heroin Epidemic and Leveraging Community Engagement to Address a Pressing Issue

Samantha J. Langley-Turnbaugh, Mark Neikirk


In the fall of 2015, Northern Kentucky University began a sustained, multidimensional effort to explore our region’s devastating heroin epidemic. The goal was to engage NKU’s students, faculty, and staff with the community through public dialogue, experiential learning, and research. Taken together, our engagements would contribute to public understanding of the crisis and its scope, as well as to evidence-based solutions in every relevant sector, including social and human services, education, public policy, and health care. The initiative began as all such engagement should: with the university listening to the community and then structuring our plans according to that counsel. The purpose of this article is to describe this effort and its outcomes, thus providing a template for colleges and universities wishing to engage deeply around an important community topic.


heroin; opioids; community engagement

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