March 13, 2024

Picture of panel discussion at APP Scholars event

Pictured left to right: Marianne Gibson, Philomena Kebec, Lauren Kestner, Lauren Nocera, Keegan Wicks, and Shelly Weizman

Washington, D.C. — Drawing attention to the need for skilled addiction policy professionals and for evidence-based policies rooted in community need to address substance use disorder in the United States, Georgetown Law’s O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law in collaboration with the Congressional Addiction, Treatment, and Recovery Caucus held a panel discussion on Friday, March 8th. The briefing, entitled, “The Next Stage of Addressing the Addiction and Overdose Epidemic,” featured the work of five scholars whose work ranges from harm reduction services in tribal communities to building a Recovery-Ready Nation.

The congressional briefing included the O’Neill Institute’s Addiction Policy Scholars and the Recovery Policy Collaborative. These individuals, all of whom have personal or family experience with substance use disorder, discussed solutions to the overdose and addiction epidemic, and the importance of including those with lived experiences in policymaking.

In her opening remarks, Shelly Weizman, associate director of the Addiction and Public Policy Initiative, underscored, “People do recover. We are living proof that there is hope, but every day we are still pulling people out of the river, and losing far too many.”

U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY) kicked off the panel discussion by stressing the urgency of the work ahead. “With historic rates of overdose death in the U.S., we have no time to waste. I appreciate the work of the Policy Scholars and those with lived experience who help move forward solutions to the addiction and overdose epidemic,” he said. 

U.S. Reps. Seth Magaziner (D-RI) and Morgan McGarvey (D-KY) also provided remarks on the need for policy strategies developed through the leadership of people with lived experience.

The Addiction Policy Scholars program at the O’Neill Institute is a unique, 18-month program that supports current and emerging leaders with personal, familial, and professional experiences with addiction and recovery. Scholars are provided mentorship and networking opportunities with the Recovery Policy Collaborative, a national network of experts in government, public policy, behavioral health, and other sectors with lived experience with addiction and recovery. 

“If we aren’t engaging the community we are trying to serve, then the work is just an academic exercise,” emphasized Marianne Gibson, an Addiction Policy Scholar, during the panel discussion. “It needs community buy-in for it to have meaning and power.”

Scholars and their projects are listed below:

  • Marianne Gibson (Project: Equitable Access to SUD Funding to Address Racial Disparities)
  • Philomena Kebec (Project: Sustainable Funding for Tribal Harm Reduction Programming) 
  • Lauren Kestner (Project: Harm Reduction Housing First for People Who Use Drugs) 
  • Lauren Nocera (Project: Centering Equity in Drug Policy and Funding) 
  • Keegan Wicks (Project: Building a Recovery-Ready Nation)

With the generous support of C4 Recovery, the O’Neill Institute launched the Addiction Policy Scholars program in September 2022, National Recovery Month. 

Learn more about the Addiction Policy Scholars Program.


Heena Patel, O’Neill Institute Director of Strategic Communications,