Bridgewater College to host conference on substance abuse prevention

bridgewaterA conference and continuing education opportunity that explores substance abuse prevention and treatment methods will be held at Bridgewater College Jan. 26 from 8:30 a.m. until 3 p.m. in Bowman Hall.

Sponsored by the Shenandoah District of the Church of the Brethren, the conference is open to all members of the community including pastors, youth leaders, lay leaders, substance abuse prevention professionals, students and parents.

The conference will include guest speakers, a panel discussion and activities designed to examine current trends and explore how drugs work, cultural sensitivity, risk factors for addiction, assessments and referrals, tools for church engagement, signs and symptoms of abuse and short- and long-term outcomes.

Topics to be addressed also include “Substance Abuse Across Development,” “Environmental Scan: Media’s Impact on Perception of Risk” and “Risk Factors for Use and Abuse.”

“Substance abuse is our nation’s number-one public health problem, with more than 25 percent of our country dealing with some form of chemical addition,” said Dr. Brian Kelley, associate professor of psychology and department chair at Bridgewater and organizer of the conference. “While substance abuse may conjure up images of sordid neighborhoods and dangerous, predatory drug dealers, the most serious drug abuse problems often occur in our own homes and include drugs and chemicals that are the most easily accessible like cigarettes, alcohol, prescription pills and inhalants.”

Kelley said nearly every home in America contains a chemical that potentially may be abused and that “the most common drug dealer in the United States is parents.” The most common age for drug-use initiation, he said, is the teen years.

“While it is true that faith and fellowship provide significant protective factors for reducing substance use and abuse, many folks in our various faith communities end up leaving just when they need support the most, generally in their late teens and early twenties, and don’t come back to the church,” Kelley said. “Or, if they do, it is generally in their forties after drugs have already ravished their lives. Our community would benefit tremendously from a concentrated and coordinated message of support from our faith communities.”

He said the goal of the conference is to help explain the scope of the problem and equip faith leaders with more effective prevention and treatment strategies.

The cost of the conference is $30, which includes a DVD, handouts and light breakfast. A lunch buffet is an additional $7.50.

To register or RSVP, contact Kelley via e-mail by Jan. 11 at

Bridgewater College is a private, four-year liberal arts college located in the Central Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. Founded in 1880, it was the state’s first private, coeducational college. Today, Bridgewater College is home to approximately 1,750 undergraduate students.

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