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Extension agents work to prevent substance abuse

Different Faces of Substance Abuse Conference this week in Lexington

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Jan. 21, 2013) — For many Kentuckians, the effects of substance abuse are all too real as they’ve either watched their friends and family struggle with these issues or have personally battled addiction.

kentucky-pillsA study published previously by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found that Kentucky led the nation in the percentage of residents who reported using psychotherapeutic drugs, prescription pain relievers and prescription tranquilizers for nonmedical reasons.

Active in their communities, county extension agents with the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service have seen the effects of substance abuse. They are working to battle the problem through community partnerships and education.

“Extension agents know that by working in community coalitions and sharing their stories, they are helping lead grassroots efforts for change,” said Jeanne Davis, coordinator of the Different Faces of Substance Abuse Conference team and UK extension program coordinator. “Their preventative programs are working to reduce the effects of substance abuse in their local populations.”

Davis is chairing the fourth annual edition of the sold-out Different Faces conference this Wednesday and Thursday, Jan. 23 and 24, at Marriott’s Griffin Gate in Lexington.

dalogo-214Among the conference participants is Natasha Lucas, Owsley County family and consumer sciences extension agent.

“So many families are going through this problem with someone in their family or extended family,” said Lucas. “As many families realize, this problem of drug abuse and misuse does not discriminate.”

Lucas is one of the many agents who have been involved with substance abuse education efforts for many years. She has focused on a variety of issues including awareness about methamphetamine and prescription drug abuse and misuse. She currently serves on the Owsley Drug Awareness Council, which is in the final year of a five-year, drug-free community grant from the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Lucas has partnered with the council for many extension programs, including those that raise awareness of youth drug abuse and its consequences. She has conducted educational sessions with elementary boys’ and girls’ basketball teams on the importance of keeping their brains healthy and drug free. In addition, the county’s 2nd Sunday, an extension event that promotes community physical activity, has a drug-free message.

“We have made some strides as a community in our battle against drug abuse, but we still have a lot of work to do,” she said.

More information on the upcoming Different Faces of Substance Abuse Conference is available at facesofdrugabuse.org/.