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WVU Receives CDC Award to Curb Vaping, Opioid Abuse

MORGANTOWN – West Virginia University’s efforts to address concerns related to substance abuse, vaping and youth mental health issues will be bolstered by funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Funding has been awarded to the West Virginia Prevention Research Center in the School of Public Health.

“Rates of vaping in West Virginia are higher than those at the national level for both adolescents and adults,” said Melissa Blank, assistant professor in the Department of Psychology who leads the center’s research initiatives surrounding substance abuse.

“These products, for which regulations are relatively limited, likely pose risks to users that are not fully understood — including the development of nicotine addiction among non-tobacco users, continued use of tobacco among current users and unknown health conditions from chemicals not normally inhaled into the lungs,” Blank added.

One of 25 centers in the nation to receive this funding, which began Sept. 30, the award provides $750,000 in the first year and has additional support from the WVU Research Office and Health Sciences Center Office of Research and Graduate Education as they collectively provide $100,000 a year to support the center’s research efforts. The grant also will allow community members to become active participants in the research process, which is a key component of its primary 2019-24 project, the Integrated Community Engagement Collaborative — a prevention model aimed to combat the state’s devastating cycle of opioid abuse.

The ICE Collaborative integrates substance abuse prevention activities for youth into local communities, focusing on building local capacity and infrastructure, with the expectation that the locally-tailored approach will decrease rates of youth substance use and foster community resilience.

“West Virginia has so much to offer to its young people,” said Alfgeir Kristjansson, associate professor in social and behavioral sciences and WVU project leader, who has overseen the project in the past. “It is our job to provide them with the appropriate structure and support so they can develop into healthy and successful adults. The collaborative contributes to this mission via research-to-practice collaboration between the WVPRC and local community prevention coalitions through ongoing data collection, practice-based dissemination and active dialogue.”

In addition to continuing its collaboration with the Community Partnership Board, the center will work with the West Virginia Division of Health Promotion and Chronic Disease to ensure its research, evaluation and training activities reflect the state’s health priorities.

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