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Town hall to address latest research on substance use, treatment, mental health in young people


By Craig Zirpolo

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

A two-day town hall meeting at Virginia Commonwealth University will bring together researchers, practitioners and members of the public to discuss the latest research on substance use, treatment and mental health among young people.

From Research to Recovery: A Town Hall Meeting on Substance Use and Young People,” presented by the College Behavioral and Emotional Health Institute and the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services, will be held on April 18 and 19.

“This is an event that gathers community members, professionals and researchers in the same place to hear a range of perspectives about substance use and mental health in young people,” said Tom Bannard, the administrative director of COBE. “Unfortunately, these are groups that are too often siloed and disconnected.”

The second-annual event is free and open to the public, but seating is limited. To register, visit the COBE website. A full event agenda is located online at cobe.vcu.edu/cobe-town-hall-2017/Schedule/.

“We must find effective ways forward, and that requires all of us at the table.”

“Right now we are at a critical point in the way that we address substance use and mental health in this country,” Bannard said. “The surgeon general has emphasized the importance of taking a public health approach in tackling these challenges and pushes us to move beyond emergency and incarceration based solutions, which have been ineffective in stemming the tide of the opioid epidemic or lessening the burden of substance use. In the midst of tremendous suffering caused by the opioid epidemic, we must find effective ways forward, and that requires all of us at the table.”

“At VCU we are fortunate to have tremendous research expertise in the areas of substance use and mental health,” said COBE Director Danielle Dick, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Psychology in the College of Humanities and Sciences and the Department of Human and Molecular Genetics. “Through COBE and associated collaborative research projects like Spit for Science, we aim to bring this research expertise ‘home’ in a way that will benefit our university and community.”

Over the last year, COBE launched research groups to support the study of substance use, contemplative science and physical health at VCU, as well as hosting free monthly lectures and producing a bi-weekly podcast called “Why Science.”

Keynote presentations at the town hall will address topics such as behavioral health, race and the drug war, the opioid epidemic and pathways to recovery.

“The symposium provides an opportunity to spotlight innovative research going on at the university, as well as by outside speakers, in order to raise awareness about what we know about the causes and treatment of substance use and mental health challenges, and to start a dialogue about how better to tackle these challenges,” Dick said.

The event is sponsored by Origins Recovery CenterLife of Purpose Addiction Treatment CenterSt. Christopher’s Addiction Wellness Center, the Family Counseling Center for Recovery, the Farley Center, the Virginia Center for Addiction Medicine, the JHW FoundationBroad Highway Recovery, the Chris Atwood Foundation and Rams in Recovery.

COBE is a research institute launched in the College of Humanities and Sciences in November 2015. The institute’s mission is to promote health and well-being on campus and in the community by linking researchers to coursework, programming and policy related to substance use and mental health.

COBE researchers also offer courses like the Science of Happiness and Love and Addiction, as well as hosting undergraduate research opportunities with Spit for Science and a wellness-themed living-learning experience for freshmen called THRIVE.


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