Those interested included employees from regional hospitals, community services board, social services, private practice, mental health, peer recovery, substance abuse, higher education, and interested citizens. Dr. Alan Forrest and Dr. Keith Davis from the Radford University Department of Counselor Education facilitated the seminar and interest session.
Forrest shared that there are projected to be 1,400 deaths in the Commonwealth of Virginia this year due to opioid abuse. Davis pointed out that opioids are particularly dangerous when obtained illegally because street drugs are often mixed with other substances that increase potency and lead to overdose.
The statistics make it clear that opioid addiction is a serious challenge in many communities throughout Southwest Virginia. Forrest noted that opioids are not just a problem in Virginia, but across the nation.
Various cultural and socio-economic factors contribute to opioid abuse. Forrest, Davis, and local professionals in attendance discussed these contributing factors, including poverty, loss of manufacturing employers, and cultural tendencies toward addiction.
“Through this session, I learned that Radford seems to really care about our community and that is not a surprise to me because they have dealt with similar issues in their immediate community. The discussion will hopefully catch on to other agencies, politicians, and citizens. We desperately need more guidance and education in order to respond to the opioid crisis,” said Patricia Smith, Mental Health Case Manager at Piedmont Community Services.
Those in attendance agreed that one part of the solution to opioid abuse is more master’s degree level professionals to meet the need for addiction treatment throughout the region.
Dr. Leanna Blevins, Executive Director of New College Institute, pointed out the correlations between opioid abuse and lack of educational attainment. “If we look at areas where opioid abuse is high, these are often populations and communities that are undereducated. The lack of education compounds the issues associated with addiction, particularly opioid addiction,” shared Blevins.
Directly following this professional development training, Davis and Forrest hosted an information session to determine interest in offering a Master’s in Counselor Education through New College Institute.