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Editorial: Drug summit turns attention to protecting babies

Apr. 05, 2013 @ 12:05 AM

The "drug summits" that have become an annual event in Cabell County since concern over drug trafficking swelled to the surface several years ago have played an important role in the community.

They have their roots in a public forum in 2006, about a year after four teenagers were gunned down in what was believed to be a drug-related incident. Residents voiced their frustrations and concerns about drug-related crime, violence and suffering. Months later, the first drug summit took place, bringing together people to search for solutions.

That quest continues to this day, in large part due to the efforts of a group that was born out of those early concerns. The Cabell County Substance Abuse Prevention Partnership -- a coalition of various agencies, organizations and individuals working to reduce substance abuse as an initiative of the United Way of the River Cities -- has hosted the annual drug summits.

Now, the group is urging people to take part in the 7th annual Cabell County Drug Prevention Summit on Thursday, April 11. It will be from 1 to 4:30 p.m. at the Big Sandy Superstore Arena Conference Center.

The summit is open to the public, and it costs people nothing to participate. But the reward for those who attend is to be part of an earnest effort to prevent substance abuse by sharing information, searching for workable ideas and gaining an understanding that can be useful in educating others about the costs of substance abuse.

Previous sessions have examined the abuse of prescription drugs, the impact of marijuana and alcohol on youth, the lack of treatment facilities to help people overcome their addictions. One example of the good that has come from these gatherings is the grassroots effort to establish the Healing Place of Huntington, an addiction-treatment center. Education efforts have been aimed at teens, pre-teens and the public at large, and initiatives such as prescription drug takeback events have helped to reduce the supply of drugs diverted for illegal purposes.

Next week's session will devote much attention on individuals who are truly helpless to resist this problem -- unborn children who are exposed to drugs and alcohol by their mothers. A 2009 study found that about 20 percent of women delivering babies in West Virginia had been exposed to either illicit drugs or alcohol, and that rate is believed to be even higher today. Last year, Cabell Huntington Hospital reported that at any given time about a third to half of its 36 designated neonatal intensive care unit beds are in use by babies born to addicted mothers. And those newborns suffer greatly.

Among the speakers will be Dr. David Chaffin Jr., director of the Division of Maternal Fetal Medicine at the Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine. He has been heavily involved in treating those infants through his work with the Marshall Maternal Addiction Recovery Center, which was featured last year on NBC's "Rock Center" news magazine. Also speaking will be Dr. Sean Loudin, pediatric clerkship director of the Department of Pediatrics, Division of Neonatology, at the school of medicine. He has worked closely with Chaffin and will focus on fetal alcohol exposure.

The third featured speaker is Lenard Kaye, a professor at the University of Maine School of Social Work. He has been a leader in his home state in strategies to reduce prescription drug abuse.

Substance abuse touches virtually everyone in the community in one way or another, whether it's directly or indirectly through a family member, friend or via one of the other negative byproducts, such as crime. To raise awareness of the issues and to seek solutions, the more who become involved in the drug summit, the better the outcome is likely to be. We urge you to become involved.

Drug summit basics

What: 7th Annual Cabell County Drug Prevention Summit, presented by the Cabell County Substance Abuse Prevention Partnership.

When: 1 to 4:30 p.m. Thursday, April 11.

Where: Big Sandy Superstore Arena Conference Center, 1 Civic Center Plaza, along 3rd Avenue, Huntington.

To attend: It's free and open to the public, but registration is requested. To register or obtain more information, call 304-523-8929, ext. 5 or 9.

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