Town hall to explore latest research on substance abuse, mental health among young people

“From Research to Recovery: A Town Hall Meeting on Alcohol and Substance Use” will be held on Apr...
“From Research to Recovery: A Town Hall Meeting on Alcohol and Substance Use” will be held on April 18 and 19. Danielle Dick, Ph.D., director of the College Behavioral and Emotional Health Institute, will be among this year's speakers. (Courtesy photo)

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 in young people.

From Research to Recovery: A Town Hall Meeting,” presented by the College Behavioral and Emotional Health Institute and the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services, will be held April 18 and 19. There also will be a pre-conference event April 17 on motivational interviewing, screening, brief interventions, and key tools and strategies for addressing alcohol, marijuana, interpersonal violence and suicide risk.

“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, program coordinator for VCU’s Rams in Recovery. “Unfortunately, these are groups that are too often siloed and disconnected.”

The third annual event is open to the public at a minimal cost, but seating is limited. To register, visit: Continuing education units are available for NAADAC, the association for addiction professionals, and the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification.

The event is also sponsored by Origins Behavioral Healthcare, Red Oak Recovery, the Farley Center, CARITAS, the Coleman Institute, the Virginia Recovery Foundation, Serenity Acres, the JHW Foundation, and Rams in Recovery.

“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.”

The College Behavioral and Emotional Health Institute, or COBE, is a research institute in the VCU College of Humanities and Sciences that was created 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.

“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 Departments of Psychology and 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 past few years, COBE has launched research groups to support the study of substance use, contemplative science and physical health at VCU, as well as hosting free monthly lectures.

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.

“The Town Hall 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.

Keynote presentations at the town hall will address the genetics, prevention, intervention, treatment, and recovery of alcohol and substance use disorders.

For a full agenda, visit: