Western Carolina University will host a town hall Thursday, Oct. 3, featuring a series of discussions and sessions focused on the national opioid and addiction crisis and on identifying potential solutions.

The free event is a partnership between WCU’s Center for the Study of Free Enterprise and the Jackson County Community Foundation, which has launched an opioid and addiction awareness campaign for September leading up to the town hall.

Collaborating with community partners toward a goal of enhancing the well-being of people affected by addiction across the mountains is part of the center’s mission of providing research, engagement and thought leadership on issues of the most importance to the Western North Carolina region, said Edward Lopez, center director who holds WCU’s BB&T Distinguished Professorship in Capitalism.

“This town hall is a way for the university to bring people together on this issue and not just talk about it some more, but also take those tangible next steps that will improve the situation for our region,” Lopez said.

Activities will be held in the Grandroom of Hinds University Center beginning at 8:15 a.m. with registration and introductory remarks from WCU Chancellor Kelli Brown. The event will conclude at 2:30 p.m.

U.S. Sen. Shelley Capito, R-W.Va., whose state in March received more than $14 million from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to fight opioid abuse, is scheduled to deliver the morning address at 8:45 a.m.

N.C. Sen. Jim Davis, R-Macon, among the legislative leaders behind North Carolina’s new Opioid Epidemic Response Act, is scheduled to deliver the afternoon address at 12:15 p.m.

The town hall will feature two panel discussions with participants including Holly Jones, community partnerships and outreach coordinator at the N.C. Department of Justice; and Kevin Rumley, coordinator for the Buncombe County Veterans Treatment Court.

Several WCU faculty members also will be serving as panelists – Al Kopak, associate professor of criminology and criminal justice; April Messer, assistant professor of nursing; Audrey Redford, assistant professor of economics; and Beth Young, assistant professor of social work.

Two representatives of the Western North Carolina news media are slated to serve as moderatos of the panel discussions – Lilly Knoepp of Blue Ridge Public Radio and Cory Vaillancourt of the Smoky Mountain News.

The town hall will close with four breakout groups tackling the following topics and questions:

• Assessment: How bad is the addiction problem and how does the severity vary by location and over time?

• Treatment: What treatment plans are best for each kind of addiction scenario?

• Policy: What federal, state and local policy changes may help in the fight against addiction?

• Social marketing: How can awareness and understanding be improved across wide populations?

The event is open to the public free of charge, and lunch will be provided. Advance registration is required by Monday, Sept. 30. To register or for more information, visit the website go.wcu.edu/townhall.