The statistics are alarming: 20 percent of eighth graders report that they have tried marijuana; 28 percent of teens know a classmate or friend who has used ecstasy; and approximately 15 percent of tenth and twelfth graders have used amphetamines, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Unfortunately Southwest Virginia is impacted at higher rates than the rest of the commonwealth. According to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner for the Western District of Virginia, drug deaths have increased throughout the commonwealth more than 80 percent since 1999 and 41 percent in western Virginia between just 2007 and 2011.
The Substance Abuse Awareness Vital for Virginia Youth (SAVVY) initiative is designed to help parents, educators and community groups “get SAVVY” about youth substance abuse at the fourth SAVVY Expo to be held from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Wednesday, September 18, at the Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center in Abingdon. Admission is free and the public is encouraged to attend.
Virginia’s Secretary of Public Safety Marla Graff Decker will open the Expo, which will also feature a presentation by Nancy Hans, chairman of the Community Coalitions of Virginia and coordinator of the Prevention Council of Roanoke County. Deputy Secretary of Public Safety Bryan Rhode will present SAVVY Schools and Communities Recognition Program awards to Bristol Public Schools and Pittsylvania County Public Schools.
“In order to address substance abuse in the commonwealth, we must incorporate a variety of disciplines. Education, awareness and prevention, along with targeted suppression, are key components in combating substance abuse. It is important that we work together to keep our communities engaged and informed. Prevention begins with community awareness,” said Secretary Decker.
The prevention initiative is designed to help parents, educators, and youth advocates teach children about the dangers of substance abuse. At the SAVVY Expo more than 25 exhibitors will share current trends and prevention programs spotlighting the newest drugs: MDMA (“Molly”), bath salts, synthetic cannabinoids, prescription and over-the-counter medicines, alcohol, inhalants and other commonly-abused substances.
In addition to representatives from local substance abuse prevention programs, experts from Virginia’s Prescription Monitoring Program, the Virginia National Guard Counterdrug Taskforce, Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice, the Virginia State Police and Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth, among many others, will be available to provide information, advice and answer questions.
At the request of Governor Bob McDonnell, the secretaries of Education, Public Safety and Health and Human Resources launched the SAVVY initiative in November 2012 with successful networking events in Central, Northern and Eastern Virginia.
"We encourage everyone, especially parents and those who work with youth, to come to this Expo to hear about prevention strategies and recent trends in youth substance abuse. It is an excellent opportunity to learn about available programs and resources, as well as network with area representatives,” Secretary Decker said.
For additional information see http://www.facebook.com/savvyva or contact Education Coordinator Jennifer Farinholt at firstname.lastname@example.org. Pre-registration is not necessary, however RSVPs are requested.
Youth Substance Abuse Awareness and Prevention is Focus of Governor’s ‘SAVVY’ Expo on Sept. 18 in Abingdon