Radford University hosts regional substance use disorders conference

Keynote speaker Jean Bennett, director of region III of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) of the United States Department of Health and Human Services

Professionals representing federal, state, local and private agencies met at Radford University to explore the perplexing challenges of regional substance use disorders on Oct. 27.

The conference, titled “Substance Use Disorders in SWVA: Establishing Connections and Networks,” took place in Kyle Hall and was live-streamed to the New College Institute in Martinsville and the Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center in Abingdon.  More than 80 people from across the region participated in an interdisciplinary program that included plenary sessions and a series of breakout sessions about treatment, recovery and relapse; motivational interviewing and enforcement of drug laws and pharmaceutical regulations.

The keynote speaker was Dr. Jean Bennett, director of region III of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, who reviewed the ideas, models and responses to substance abuse disorders for individuals, families, organizations and communities.

Radford University President Brian O. Hemphill welcomed the guests from across Southwest Virginia with a personal reflection on the impact of substance use disorders on him and his family.

“I know first-hand the impact substance use can have on families and the type of work that needs to be done,” said President Hemphill. “My hope is that through the dialogue today, it will provide some of the answers that we need to the difficult questions we face. My hope today is that you will continue to unravel the intricacies of mental health and substance abuse which are so devastating to our community.”

Victor Bullock, a second-year doctoral student in Counseling Psychology from Prince George, Virginia, welcomed the chance to connect with colleagues working in the field of addiction and recovery.

“It is a valuable opportunity to collaborate and make connections with professionals outside my discipline and understand the intersectionality of the issues. I want to help others and contribute to finding solutions,” said Bullock, who prior to coming to Radford had worked in Chicago as counselor and is familiar with the negative impacts of drugs and alcohol.

Mary McMasters of the Virginia Department of Health described the addiction disease process and the clinical tools used in practice.

“We had a unique and powerful assembly of those who daily confront the dilemmas of substance use,” said Victoria Bierman, associate professor of nursing and coordinator of Radford’s Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) Program. “The damage done to our communities and our loved ones is so widespread and so much bigger than one discipline or field. Interprofessional collaboration is crucial.”

Bierman is project manager of a four-year, $1.9 million Mental and Behavioral Health Education and Training Grant by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) that enables faculty from Radford University’s Waldron College of Health and Human Services, College of Education and Human Development and College of Humanities and Behavioral Sciences to train and supervise behavioral health care professionals to confront the effects of widespread alcohol and drug use.

Misty Queen, a doctoral candidate in the Family Nurse Practitioner program and veteran nurse, is a student in another initiative – a two-year, over $2 million HRSA Advanced Nursing Education Workforce Grant to immerse Radford advanced practice nursing students in health care to rural communities.

“They are talking about my community and addiction is huge,” said Queen. “I am hearing a vast range of perspectives and opinions that can give me a well-rounded approach that I will incorporate into my practice.”

The conference was organized by a committee of Radford University faculty from the Schools of Nursing and Social Work and Departments of Criminal Justice, Psychology and Counselor Education and was supported by the HRSA Mental and Behavioral Health Education and Training Grant.

Stephen Owen, professor and chair of the Department of Criminal Justice, reflected on the impact of collaboration.

“Too often we talk to one another within our disciplines and don’t hear our colleagues from other disciplines,” Owen said. “Collaboration has to help us understand and confront a very complex problem like this.”

Teresa Van Nostrand ’96 is a policy planning specialist for the Virginia Department of Corrections and former clinical psychologist, who returned to the campus for the conference.

“Radford is being relevant and engaged,” said Van Nostrand. “Bringing professionals together for this very specific problem highlights how the university can contribute to a multidisciplinary approach to finding solutions.”


Panelists and organizing committee members assembled during the conference for a group portrait.

Nov 5, 2018
Don Bowman