Community Coalitions of Virginia hosts 2nd annual state summit in Roanoke

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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) -- Medical professionals, community health advocates, and law enforcement officers from across the state were in Roanoke Wednesday for the 2nd annual Community Coalitions of Virginia state summit.

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Virginia Secretary of Health and Human Resources Daniel Carey was among the speakers.

“This is part of education, motivation and networking that’s important for this, really, nationwide and certainly statewide problem,” said Carey.

Conference attendees discussed the dangers of opioids, marijiuana and vaping, as well as forms of addiction.

“Addiction will find a drug, so it can’t just be about opioids,” said Carey.

Over the past year, the Commonwealth raised the vaping age to 21 in hopes of keeping these products – and even more dangerous ones -- out of the hands of teenagers.

“Nicotine is one of the most addictive substances that we know of, and when the youth – folks in middle school and high school – are exposed to nicotine through vaping as opposed to preventing tobacco products, the data I see, it actually increases the use of tobacco products,” said Carey.

As marijuana becomes legalized in more and more states, Will Jones of Smart Approaches to Marijuana is pushing for the decriminalization of the drug while raising concerns about the marijuana industry following in the footsteps of the alcohol and tobacco industries.

“No one wants to see anyone arrested or incarcerated for marijuana use, but on the other hand the answer to that is not creating a recreational, commercial industry that’s going to profit off of addiction,” said Jones. “Minority communities in Denver, Colorado have one pot shop for every 47 residents; the stores are disproportionately in minority communities there in Denver, Colorado, there’s more pot shops than Starbucks and McDonald’s combined.”

Ultimately, this conference aims to help professionals learn best practices from different parts of the state and apply what works best for their communities.

“There’s no one size fits all model, that’s one of the basic principles of public health practice is we can’t apply a model straight from a textbook to a population,” said Nour Alamiri, the Chair of Community Coalitions of Virginia.

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