HUNTINGTON - "Prevention," as it applies to public health, isn't glamorous, but it's completely necessary.

It's also a broad definition. Though the word elicits thoughts of "Just Say No" or similar substance abuse programming, "prevention" is needed in all portions of a person's life, be they child or adult.

Covering all those preventative bases is the goal of the Prevention Empowerment Partnership (PEP), an initiative of the United Way of the Rivers Cities, which hosted its 13th annual Drug Prevention Summit on Thursday at the St. Mary's Conference Center in Huntington.

Kicked off with a pep rally and news conference, the afternoon included workshops covering the many forms prevention can take: suicide prevention for children and adults; naloxone training to reverse an overdose; using kinder language to reduce the stigma associated with substance use disorder; and "Hidden in Plain Sight," where parents and professionals comb through a simulated bedroom looking for places illegal drugs could be hidden.

"This event gives us the opportunity to showcase what we're starting and talk about what we want to do in the future," said Angela Saunders, PEP director.

PEP began around 11 months ago, growing out of the Cabell County Substance Abuse Prevention Partnership, which remains a subcommittee of the new organization. Building on those already established connections and programming, PEP expands those efforts into different parts of the community, targeting special types of prevention - such as suicide and human trafficking.

Kids are often the target of prevention programming - and that's still much needed - but adults need to be informed to make healthy decisions as well, said Lyn O'Connell, associate director of addiction sciences for Marshall Health, who presented at the summit. That knowledge and effort can be applied equally and with as much necessity - be it tobacco, alcohol, healthy eating or substance use - wherever and however it may apply to a person's life.

"(Prevention) is not just being anti-substance or whatever you want to put in that conversation," O'Connell said. "It's pro-being enabled and empowered to make healthy decisions."

The United Way of the River Cities serves communities in Cabell, Lincoln, Mason and Wayne counties in West Virginia and Lawrence County, Ohio.


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