October 18, 2010

Prescription drug abuse and misuse are huge problems throughout Kentucky and the nation. To help address these issues through community education, the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture is co-sponsoring The Different Faces of Substance Abuse Conference January 25 and 26 at the Marriott Griffin Gate Hotel in Lexington.

Personnel from UK's Cooperative Extension Service, School of Human Environmental Sciences and Health Education through Extension Leadership have taken lead roles as conference organizers.

"It's so important for our extension agents to raise awareness among family and community members about this issue and provide them with skills and education that they can use to identify instances of abuse, address these situations and provide support to those who are recovering," said Ann Vail, director of the School of Human Environmental Sciences and assistant director of family and consumer sciences extension.

Substance abuse is a complex problem that affects every facet of family life and community involvement.

"Substance abuse is an extreme drain on the economy of local communities," said Debbie Murray, associate director of UK's HEEL program. "It results in unproductive workers, loss of productive work days and dysfunctional family members. Thousands of dollars are spent on illegal drug trade and kept out of the local economy."

"Prescription drug abuse changes family dynamics in every aspect from finances to the care of young children," said Christy Nuetzman, Clinton County family and consumer sciences extension agent. "People want to live in a community where they feel safe and prescription drug abuse doesn't always make that possible."

During the workshop, experts will present data and information about prescription drug abuse to extension agents, law enforcement officials, social workers, elected officials and other community partners. Participants will also have the opportunity to share information and success stories with others in their communities and from across the state.

"We feel that the best way to fight this problem is by community agencies working together to address the issues surrounding prescription drug abuse," said Jeanne Davis, regional program and development coordinator for UK Cooperative Extension Service's West Region. "If you don't know there is a problem and what its causes are, you can't treat it. This conference is a good opportunity to raise public awareness about the issue."

The conference begins with registration at 11 a.m. EST Jan. 25. Lunch will be served from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Presentations will begin at 12:40 p.m.

Organizers chose the program based on requests from first year conference attendees. First day speakers include Van Ingram, executive director of the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy; Mike Bosse, assistant police chief in Lexington; Dave Hopkins with the Office of the Inspector General in the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services; Carl Leukefeld, chair of the UK Department of Behavioral Science and director of the Center on Drug and Alcohol Research; and Kerry Harvey, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky.

The second day will begin with a continental breakfast at 7:30 a.m. Participants can choose to attend three of seven concurrent educational workshops during the morning. The keynote speaker following the workshops is Charlotte Wethington, who lost a child as a result of prescription drug use and an advocate for Casey's Law. She will speak from 11:15 a.m. until noon. The conference concludes at noon.

Other conference co-sponsors include the UK College of Pharmacy, Kentucky Division of Behavioral Health, Lexington Mayor's Alliance on Substance Abuse and the Fayette County Board of the Kentucky Agency for Substance Abuse Policy.

Preregistration is necessary. Space is limited to the first 250 participants and is quickly filling up. The registration deadline is Nov. 15. Registration forms, exhibitor forms and hotel information are available on the conference's website http://www.facesofdrugabuse.net/.

Eight teaching hours of continuing education credits will be available for different agencies.

In addition to the website, conference information is available on Facebook under The Different Faces of Substance Abuse and Twitter @FacesDrugAbuse.