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The Official Baldrige Blog

The Baldrige Community Can Help Battle the National Opioid Crisis

Baldrige Can Help the Opioid Crisis blog photo showing a photo of a bottle of pills spilled on a table.
Credit: Scotyard/Shutterstock

Sadly, each of us may know an addict or have been impacted by a story of opioid addiction.

Baldrige alumnus examiner Kevin Deats believes in the Baldrige community and thinks this Baldrige blog could help accelerate communication and the national response to the opioid crisis by sharing strategies and best-practice approaches across the states we advocate excellence within.

Each day, more than 115 Americans die from overdosing on opioids, which include prescription pain relievers, heroin, and synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the total “economic burden of prescription opioid misuse alone in the United States is $78.5 billion a year, including the costs of health care, lost productivity, addiction treatment, and criminal justice involvement” (Florence C.S., Zhou C., Luo F., Xu L., "The Economic Burden of Prescription Opioid Overdose, Abuse, and Dependence in the United States," Med Care, 2013)—not to mention the tragedy of lives lost.

Because Baldrige examiners are experts in accelerating change, process improvement, being systematic and innovative, and measurement, Deats believes that examiners can help gather and share the evidence-based data that communities and lawmakers need to effect change.

“The epidemic hits hard across all demographics, and I think we need innovation to  prioritize sharing and outreach," said Deats. "I validated this with a local candidate for state office. Leaders want to know. They don’t know where to look.”

Deats proposes that Baldrige examiners can help states answer fundamental questions to help leaders accelerate decisions including

  1. What your state wants to accomplish.
  2. What your state measures in order to make robust decisions in regards to deaths, overdoses, addiction, recidivism, etc.
  3. What solutions can be shared from your state to accelerate changes across the nation (including treatment innovations, success stories, outreach, and testimonies lending hope for the future).
  4. What your state leaders need to know about other approaches, deployments, learning, and integration of solutions in and across states.
  5. What strategic advantages and challenges (economic, political, criminal) your state has in addressing the crisis.
  6. How your leaders communicate (Baldrige Criteria, 1.1b), and how leaders  can communicate across the country.

If you are interested in such engagement and sharing, please comment on this blog.  

About the author

Dawn Bailey

Dawn Bailey is a writer/editor for the Baldrige Program and involved in all aspects of communications, from leading the Baldrige Executive Fellows program to managing the direction of case studies, social media efforts, and assessment teams. She has more than 25 years of experience, 18 years at the Baldrige Program. Her background is in English and journalism, with degrees from the University of Connecticut and an advanced degree from George Mason University.


Great introduction to a complex crisis facing our nation. I am excited to hear what other think, what questions they would ask and how others might envision the potential contribution of Baldrige.

"they don't know where to look"? You start at your own home, everyone has that one thing if it's not escaping reality from drug misuse, it's gambling, sex, food, shoping, motorcycles, sky diving something everyone has something.. The opioid epedimic is REAL, The opioid crisis is more middle class, working family where it hits the most, Who would want to get seen going into a drug treament facility where your scared to move, it's nasty all around your most likely not going to waitin that line, then the problem proceeds, they can't get enough, then that's when they switched over to heroin and fentynol.. This senthic man made medicine is destroying lives, regulate the big pharma, Promote a "nalural way" to ease the symptoms.

Great comments Krystal. I feel you captured many frustrations in the crisis, from awareness, access and fear. As solutions to each are evidences, we need to be able to share across the nation which are effective, efficient and capable of being effectively and systematically used across the nation to help.

“Give me a place to stand and I will move the Earth” said Archimedes (quoted by Pappus of Alexandria Collection or Synagoge, Book VIII, c. AD 340).

I know several Examiners who are close to being Superheroes, but this maybe too big an “ask” for even that formidable team.

However, the Baldrige community is also home to many other Superheroes that have more experience and higher credibility with using the Baldrige process, more clout, and resources that vastly outnumber the entire Examiner team by a factor of 1,000 or so – our recipients, especially our 20 or so healthcare recipients who are already aware of this epidemic. They more likely to have the cred, clout, and crowds to move the Earth on this issue.

Great comment Barry. I wonder how we can increase sharing across these recipients and efforts such as communities of excellence. How can we increase visibility to our community leaders, including those seeking to become community leaders?

I will share this with our MAPP group here in Homer, Alaska.

Great message on MAPP. It would be interesting to see what questions came from the MAPP Opioid and Heroin symposium. Thanks for SHaring.

I would love to hear more and would welcome the opportunity to become involved.

This post is exciting! My organization, Communities of Excellence 2026 uses a Baldrige-based framework to help leaders in communities improve key community outcomes around health, educational attainment, economic vitality and safety. One of the communities we work with is Kanawha County, West Virginia and as you know, the opioid epidemic has hit their area hard. Kevin: I would be very pleased to connect you with their team so you can learn how they've used Baldrige and the Communities of Excellence Framework in their community for this very issue. It could be a good place to start identifying and spreading best practices! They are great role models in community leadership and a pleasure to work with. I also need to credit Charleston Area Medical Center for stepping forward as the backbone organization to support their work with us. We believe communities need Baldrige and they were one of our early supporters in this idea.

Stephanie, I really enjoyed your post. It was great for me to become aware of the effort in Kanawha County. I wonder how we can build on this. Increasing communication between Communities of Excellence efforts on the Opioid epidemic and other members of the alliance (for example, the Performance Excellence Northwest (PENW) efforts which collaborate across Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Alaska) seems exciting.. One opportunity that PENW members discussed yesterday was adding this topic the September excellence symposium. Key Baldrige efforts from Mason General in Shelton, WA
City of Walla Walla and St. Lukes, Boise will be represented. Speakers will include rural and healthcare, effectively engaging the patient population Annual and regional Baldrige events seem like systematic opportunities to share across the Baldrige community.

What are your thoughts?

I am honored by the thoughts of all who have shared today. We have Baldrige based communities (thanks Stephanie) and efforts and interest from the East Coast to Alaska. Recipients and communities actively engaged in the crisis can be building block for the nation, and per Barry’s comment – they know how to move things. How can Baldrige help accelerate frank communication on best practice in leadership, strategy, patient/family/community care and measurement?

MEASURING the Crisis

Measuring the crisis reminded me of the journey to measure and help the country in another crisis -- cyber security where leaders in cyber security helped develop the measurements and criteria of excellence that are now used across the nation. Another example, the American Heathcare association (AHCA) aligned on key measurement to significantly improve the lives of seniors.

Can we do something similar with this crisis?

Can our recipients help us develop measures in order to make robust decisions in regards to deaths, overdoses, addiction, recidivism, etc?

How might that happen?

What questions and measurements might cross the criteria?

Thanks for keeping the conversation going?

Great article- we need to align our resources versus duplication of efforts. More of a collective impact that capitalized on learning

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