Why Prevention Matters
In 2019, approximately 20.3 million people over the age of 12 were diagnosed with a substance use disorder. Although substance use disorders can affect anyone, it impacts several groups at a higher rate, such as individuals who are part of the LGBTQ+ community and those who have experienced childhood trauma. Considering how common substance misuse is and the health disparities that are evident in our society, prevention efforts are vital to reduce the likelihood of developing a severe illness and promote healthy futures. Substance misuse not only affects the wellbeing of individuals, but at a larger scale, the US economy loses $740 billion each year due to substance misuse. For every dollar spent on prevention efforts, 65 dollars in medical costs can be saved. For Virginia, this could mean saving an estimate of $697 million if Opioid Use Disorders reduce by 5%.
Recognizing the personal and community impacts, Virginia’s Community Service Boards (CSBs) are implementing several successful prevention strategies to address mental health, substance use disorders, and suicide. Virginia is working with its communities to provide Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) trainings to the public to learn about the impacts of trauma on wellbeing. To address substance misuse and overdose, Virginia provides education on safe medication disposal and provides devices to keep out of reach or safely discard medications. Virginia is also implementing Lock and Talk to provide free gun and medication lock devices and encourage someone who is suicidal to talk about their feelings. In addition to Lock and Talk, there are several suicide prevention trainings offered throughout the state, such as Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) and ASSIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training). These strategies are targeted to the general population and those who are at increased risk of developing a severe mental health or substance use disorder to reduce stigma and promote healthy wellbeing.
One way that Virginia has been successful is through the support of its coalition members. This is especially helpful in communities with reduced access to services. An approach that the Goochland Powhatan rural communities implemented through their RSAAC Coalition is by hosting their second annual walk to raise awareness of overdoses. The event will feature a walk, food, music, and a keynote address from Beth Macy. This event helps connect the community by sharing resources and support for each other, reducing the stigma of substance misuse and validating the grief that accompanies overdoses. Their second annual walk will feature food, music, and a keynote address from author Beth Macy.