University, Alabama Dept. Of Health hosting event on substance misuse

Ainsley Platt | @ainsleyplatt, News Editor

The University of Alabama announced that it is planning to hold a professional development conference in conjunction with the Alabama Department of Mental Health next week.  

A UA news release said the event will focus on “understanding the stigma of individuals with substance and opioid use disorders.” 

The conference, which is called “Stop Judging: Start Healing Stigma Summit 2023” will be held on Jan. 19 and features former college football player Damon West as the keynote speaker. 

The event will have breakout rooms for healthcare professionals and criminal justice professionals. 

According to the Johns Hopkins Medicine website, “research demonstrates that stigma damages the health and well-being of people with substance use disorder and interferes with the quality of care they receive in clinical settings.” 

Stigma towards drug use is widely prevalent across the U.S., especially in its criminal justice system, and much of the punishment falls disproportionately on Black adults. Despite how white and Black people use drugs at similar rates, Black adults are far more likely to be arrested on drug charges. 

According to CDC data, the state of Alabama had over one thousand opioid overdose deaths in 2020. 

The Crimson White recently reported on efforts by a student group, UA End Overdose, to train other students in the administration of Narcan through a training program created in partnership with the UAPD and the Student Government Association. 

“When people with addiction are stigmatized and discarded within healthcare and the judicial system, it only promotes the vicious cycle that is embedded in their disease,” said Dr. Ellen Robertson, project director for VitAL at The University of Alabama, which works to “educate and bring awareness to the stigma associated with substance use disorders.” 

The event will begin at 8:15 a.m., and costs $35, which includes breakfast and lunch. Those interested can register here.