University Community

Ohio University Chillicothe hosts prevention conference

Nearly 200 individuals from fields including social work, counseling, education, law enforcement, healthcare, and community advocacy convened at Ohio University Chillicothe on May 29, 2024, for a day-long event focused on advancing prevention efforts in rural Ohio. The Innovation in Prevention in Rural Ohio conference brought together professionals and community members alike, driven by a shared commitment to fostering safety and well-being in their communities.

The conference featured local and state experts dedicated to fostering strength and safety in youth through schools, community programs, law enforcement, and more. Presenters shared information and led conversations on suicide prevention, substance abuse, gambling, and sexual abuse prevention, to create communities of care for youth in rural Ohio.

Jessica Pfeifer, the Quick Response Team coordinator for Fayette County, shared her personal journey of recovery from mental health challenges and substance abuse. As an overdose survivor, she expressed her gratitude to Chillicothe Police Captain Michael Short of the Ross County Post Overdose Response Team, whose timely intervention saved her life and empowered her to dedicate herself to prevention work. Pfeifer emphasized the importance of empathy, meeting individuals where they are, and fostering a non-judgmental approach in supporting those dealing with substance use disorder. Currently pursuing her bachelor’s degree in social work at Ohio University Chillicothe, Pfeifer works for the Community Action Commission of Fayette County.

Chillicothe Police Chief Ron Meyers, along with Captain Short and Social Worker Joanna Denny, joined other members of the Ross, Pike, and Highland County post-overdose response teams to share experiences and strategies for addressing the opioid crisis. Meyers said community engagement, in its many forms, is a key part of a police department’s work.

“We educate the public by participating in conferences like this,” Meyers said. “Hopefully people take back what we've said to their communities.”

Jessie Cook, a prevention specialist in Pike County Schools, highlighted the importance of such conferences in dispelling misconceptions and equipping prevention practitioners with the necessary knowledge and skills to effectively serve their communities.

“There’s so much misunderstanding about the field of prevention,” Cook said. “Conferences like this bring clarity and understanding.”

Organizer Stacey Saunders-Adams, assistant professor of social work at OHIO Chillicothe, thanked the conference presenters and participants for coming together for critical conversations about creating communities that are equipped to prevent problems that persist for their populations.

“We appreciate all the work you do in our communities and thank you for spending time with us today,” Saunders-Adams said. “It’s time for us to unite our efforts and resources to change the trajectory for our region.”

Ohio University Chillicothe’s Department of Social Work partnered with the HOPE Partnership Project Youth Coalition, Paint Valley ADAMH, the Appalachian Children’s Coalition, and First Capital Cornerstone of Change to present the second annual prevention conference. 

May 30, 2024
Staff reports