George Mason University

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Former Virginia Health and Human Resources Secretary joins Mason to fight opioid epidemic

March 28, 2018


Fairfax, Va. – George Mason University has hired former Virginia Secretary for Health and Human Resources Bill Hazel to strengthen research programs in its multidisciplinary Institute for Biohealth Innovation (IBI). As Senior Advisor for Strategic Initiatives and Policy, Hazel’s initial focus will be helping to spearhead a multidisciplinary initiative to fight the opioid epidemic in Northern Virginia and elsewhere.

“We are pleased to welcome Dr. Hazel to the university to help us address this critical issue,” Mason President Ángel Cabrera said. “Dr. Hazel’s deep knowledge of the opioid crisis, combined with Mason faculty expertise and resources across multiple disciplines, will help improve and save thousands of lives in the region and state that we serve and will offer novel solutions that can be applied in other parts of the nation.”

“[The opioid epidemic] is very real here in Northern Virginia,” Hazel said. “Mason has the potential to serve as a backbone organization in a collective impact effort, if the localities would like us to serve in that role. Mason also has significant research capabilities to bring to bear on this problem. The collective effort of many stakeholder organizations will be necessary to eradicate the epidemic.”

The scourge continues to plague Northern Virginia as it has the rest of the country. Mason is convening pertinent local, state and federal partners in an attempt to better understand the problem.

“We will draw upon the extensive research and training expertise of Mason faculty in fields such as addiction, health policy, data science and analytics, economics, law and criminal justice in this initiative,” said Deborah Crawford, Mason’s vice president for research.

Hazel, an orthopedic surgeon, served two terms (2010-2018) as the commonwealth’s secretary for health and human resources. During his first term, he led the Virginia Health Reform Initiative and helped establish the Virginia Center for Health Innovation. Hazel is the founding chair of ConnectVirginia, the state’s health information exchange. He also negotiated an agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice to improve community services for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

In his second term, he co-chaired the first Children’s Cabinet in Virginia and co-chaired the Governor’s Task Force on Prescription Drug and Heroin Abuse and served as a strong advocate for strengthening Virginia’s behavioral health system and increasing access to health care for low-income Virginians.

About George Mason University

George Mason University is Virginia’s largest public research university. Located near Washington, D.C., Mason enrolls 36,000 students from 130 countries and all 50 states. Mason has grown rapidly over the last half-century and is recognized for its innovation and entrepreneurship, remarkable diversity and commitment to accessibility. Learn more at

Contact: John Hollis