Proposal to Address Opioid Addiction Wins 2017 Penn Public Policy Challenge

A team of students from the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy & Practice has won this year’s Penn Public Policy Challenge sponsored by the Fels Institute of Government with a proposal that provides a way to dispose unused prescription pain medication in drop boxes at pharmacies.

In selecting the winner, Team Take Back Our City, the Penn Public Policy Challenge judges cited the timeliness of the problem addressed and the potential for Philadelphia to become the first city to implement such a campaign.

The Challenge is a real-world competition in which policy-minded students formulate ideas to improve the City of Philadelphia. Each competing team defines a specific problem in the city, identifies key stakeholders, and develops policy proposals and campaign plans to achieve significant positive change in their community. The Penn Finals were held March 5 at Perry World House on Penn’s campus. 

The team is comprised of four master’s of science and social policy students from SP2, Matt Miclette, Memphis Madden, Sarah Parkinson and Anne Futterrer. The students propose to increase the number of pharmacy take backs through partnerships to help pharmacies send text message reminders to people to return expired medications. The project would put into place a critical step in addressing Philadelphia’s opioid epidemic: prevent youth from misusing prescription drugs by reducing access to the supply.

"Take Back Our City believes that patients should be able to return their expired prescriptions right to where they got them in the first place, the pharmacy,” Miclette said. “We have a two-step plan of expanding prescription drop-boxes to Philadelphia pharmacies and establishing a mobile message reminder system when a controlled medication has expired to maximize the use of the boxes.”

The team was awarded a $5,000 grand prize to further develop the project proposal and will move on to represent Penn in the National Public Policy Challenge Invitational on March 26 at the National Constitution Center. Team Take Back Our City will square off against other student-led teams from Texas A&M, Cornell University, University of Chicago, University of Minnesota, Georgetown University and University of Georgia.

The team chose a prescription take-back plan to prevent opioid misuse as the focus of its proposal after a childhood friend of a team member died from a heroin overdose last year. The friend began misusing prescription drugs that he found in a medicine cabinet at home before he became addicted to heroin.

Four other teams competed in the Penn Public Policy Challenge Finals. Team Philly Linked had a proposal to connect Philadelphia’s returning citizens to employers by encouraging use of incentives to hire workers perceived to be “high risk”. Team PHEAST presented a plan  to provide nutritious, satisfying and affordable meals to Philadelphians, regardless of income or neighborhood via a Food Truck concept. Team City Sense had a proposal to partner with the city to provide analytics software to capture lost water utility revenue. Team Food (Re)Connect proposed a way to increase the efficiency of hunger relief efforts in Philadelphia by revitalizing the Food Connect app created during the 2016 Democratic National Convention.


2017 Penn Public Policy Challenge winner