Cincinnati to host state-wide drug abuse outreach conference and marijuana summit

CINCINNATI - The Urban Minority Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Outreach Program (UMADAOP) will host its 24th annual conference in Cincinnati Aug. 21 to 23.

In addition to its traditional educational agenda, organizers will begin by honoring founder and former Ohio State Representative William L. Mallory, Sr on Aug. 20, the eve of the conference. The event will close the week on a controversial note, with a community-wide, town hall meeting to discuss marijuana use and legislation. 

The mission of UMADAOP is to: 

  • Increase community understanding of substance abuse by conducting education and awareness programs
  • Reduce barriers which prevent early identification and treatment
  • Provide prevention programing for youth
  • Increase the awareness and sensitivity of human service providers

Tributes and teaching

According to Cincinnati UMADAOP executive director Michael Langford, this year’s conference involves a three-fold approach, starting Tuesday evening with a gala dinner honoring the accomplishments of organization founder Mallory.

Langford said Mallory was a visionary who foresaw the need for UMADAOP's services more than 30 years ago. He said Mallory pioneered efforts to enact to alcohol, tobacco and drug treatment and education on local, state and national levels.

“He worked tirelessly to get legislation passed to put our programs into existence and we have been doing that work ever since,” Langford said.

The second part of the conference kicks off on Wednesday. Attendees can take part in sessions addressing addiction, treatment and prevention. Langford said speakers from around the country will be on hand to share their knowledge and experience. He said attendees run the gamut: representing non-profit organizations, community and faith-based organizations, medical professionals, treatment organizations--essentially anyone whose lives have been touched by alcohol, tobacco and drug addiction or abuse.

“A primary goal is to have the individuals who come in leave the conference educated, renewed and regenerated,” he said. “Ready to go back in and just grasp hold of this stewardship we’ve been given of our communities, our sons, our daughters, and our grandchildren and just go back revitalized to do what we’ve been charged and called to do.”

As both and attendee and a panelist, Coalition for a Drug-Free Greater Cincinnati president and CEO, Mary Haag explained her organization is focused on drug prevention and problem solving.

Haag said the conference is especially important as it bring focus to prevention and treatment for many of the minority populations in Greater Cincinnati. She said the event makes attendees aware of specific cultural issues that affect different populations along with respectful and successful prevention and treatment options. She explained change is as a complex issue that must take root in the community and involve multiple organizational partners to see results.

“It’s very specific to what their community issues are, so we have to have a comprehensive approach to the program,” she said. “We know that just one thing won’t work, you have to have that comprehensive approach.”

Talking about marijuana

The third and potentially most controversial component of the conference will take place on Friday. The community-wide marijuana town hall summit is open to the public and promises to be a “lively discussion,” Langford said. He said their panel will conduct an in-depth discussion of the social implications of the laws that have been put in place regulating marijuana around the country.

“Our prevention professionals are concerned about the marijuana issue that’s facing our community, our schools and our children,” he explained. “So we wanted to do a summit to promote and educate individuals on the physical and the mental and psychological dangers of marijuana use."

In addition to the workshop held by the Coalition for a Drug-Free Greater Cincinnati, Haag will be sitting on the panel of the marijuana summit. 

She said her organization's 2012 survey showed a decrease in alcohol and tobacco use, but a slight uptick in marijuana use. Haag explained their organizational stance is, if marijuana is to be used for medical purposes it should be regulated by the FDA and not voted on by the general public as a ballot issue.

She said if marijuana is indeed medicinal, it needs to go through rigorous FDA testing to determine dosage and side effects then be issued by doctors via prescriptions as any other medication. She said as the issue may hit the ballot, she wants Cincinnati residents to be prepared.

“The marijuana summit is free and we encourage people to come and learn about the issues,” she said. “Residents may be voting on it in a year or so, so one of our goals is to make sure more and more people know about it, so they can make an informed decision.”

It takes a community

Langford said lcohol, tobacco and drug use in Cincinnati ebbs and flows, with a current spike in opiate-based drugs, including Oxycontin, Percocet and heroin. He added marijuana use remains constant, an issue communities constantly battle as many users feel pot is simply to be a rite of passage. He said the best way to address issues is to get increased involvement, so he encourages anyone who has an interest to attend the conference.

“It’s vitally important because it is a community issue even if it’s an individual or someone in their family or that family it will ultimately affect the core fiber of the entire community,” Langford said. “So it’s vitally important that the community buy in so to speak and be part of the projects.”

The conference is open to the public. For those who need assistance with the registration fee, Langford said they offer scholarships that allow for full access to the conference. He said the only elements not included in the scholarship are luncheons and the gala dinner for Mallory, but tickets are available for purchase. 

“I would like to reiterate, it is open to the public and if individuals have trouble making the registration, give us a call anyway and we’ll do everything we can to make it happen for them to be there,” he said.

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