Looking around the room, it was hard to determine a solid link among the attendees. Their clothing, mannerisms and speech indicated that they came from all walks of life. However, as the evening progressed, and participants bonded over tacos and shared experiences, the link between the people became increasingly clear: a passion for community involvement revolving around Substance Abuse Disorder.

The Addictions Action Summit took place on September 13 in the WVU Parkersburg Campus Activities Center. What’s Next MOV, WVU Parkersburg, Community Recovery Center, Your Voice MOV, WTAP, WOUB Public Radio and iHeart Media sponsored the event while the Sisters Health Foundation funded it.

Earlier in the summer, members of the community gathered on three occasions to discuss three major questions surrounding the epidemic:

1. What does substance abuse look like?,
2. What are the causes of substance abuse? and
3. What are the steps to address the substance abuse crisis?

From those discussions in Marietta, Parkersburg and Belpre, they generated a word cloud which contained words like: drug courts, coping skills, youth education, trauma-informed care, mentor programs, church involvement and jobs for people in recovery. Those finding were condensed into bite size pieces for this summit’s attendees to digest and move forward with.

Lead by Jean Ambrose of What’s Next MOV, the entire summit functioned in a small group format to encourage communication and experience sharing among the attendees. The groups focused on three segments to create actionable items to move forward within the community to address the epidemic.

“No one is going to come save us in the Mid-Ohio Valley – we need to save ourselves.”

The first segment focused on understanding the previous findings and determining if any holes existed within them. It boiled down to the shared belief among attendees that any action would be a positive motion to treating the epidemic with participants agreeing that, “no one is going to come save us in the Mid-Ohio Valley – we need to save ourselves.”

“I think community support is important because they [those diagnosed with Substance Abuse Disorder] go back into the community. In recovery, they are in groups that are self-contained. We need the community to address and support their coming back into the community,” WVU Parkersburg Health and Wellness Director Pamela Santer said.

Progressing to the second topic, groups transitioned again to discuss what can be done that is most impactful as well as most doable. While these topics often overlapped, it lead attendees to understand that even the smallest changes could make a difference.

Josh Sheets, a local who is recovering from Substance Abuse Disorder, addressed the group about the difficulties of obtaining employment after a drug conviction. Many people in his situation can’t find employment, but there are government bonds available to small businesses owners who will agree to hire someone with a record.

“People in recovery are accepted members with lots to share. If we sit down together, we can figure this out. It’s not an impossible problem.”

“We need more programs that offer recovery and responsibility with the ability to work. I was turned down to over 150 jobs when I was first job-seeking. Once you’re turned down so many times, you start to think, ‘if they don’t believe in me, then why should I?’” he said. The final question revolved around generating ideas that would inspire hope within the Substance Abuse Disorder community and the Mid-Ohio Valley. Participants believe that reinforcing the link between those with Substance Abuse Disorder and their humanity will help the community support them toward recovery.

“People said that these kinds of meetings give people hope. People in recovery are accepted members with lots to share. If we sit down together, we can figure this out. It’s not an impossible problem – we may feel overwhelmed by the complexity, but we can solve the small problems to work on the final solution,” Jean said.

Finally, attendees participated in an open space summit where people volunteered to pursue actionable items discussed through the evening. These included a rebranding of the Substance Abuse Disorder image, the need for more sober living houses and therapy through art and music. People who signed up for these items will begin meeting beyond the summit to create change within the community.

Those interested in participating in the future should watch the What’s Next MOV Facebook page along with Clutch MOV for further updates.