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Media Advisory:
Governor McDonnell Announces Initiative to Promote Substance Abuse Awareness and Prevention for Virginia’s Youth
–New Prevention Program to Increase Awareness about the Dangers of Substance Abuse and Recognize the Commonwealth’s Best Response Strategies –

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  October 26, 2012
·   Jeff Caldwell, Office of the Governor
Jeff.Caldwell@Governor.Virginia.Gov ; Phone: (804) 225-4260
·   Maureen Haney, Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control
    Email:;    Phone: (804) 325-8468

Richmond, VA  – Governor Bob McDonnell is launching a new prevention initiative designed to bring awareness to parents, educators, students and youth advocates about the dangers of substance abuse, especially the growing use of synthetic cannabinoids, hallucinogenic bath salts and misused prescription medicine. The new Substance Abuse Awareness Vital for Virginia Youth (SAVVY) initiative will include a series of SAVVY Expos and a recognition program to acknowledge school divisions and community organizations for their efforts to reduce the use of these dangerous new drugs.

“Virginia is a great place to raise a family, but our young people are growing up in an environment fraught with new dangers and temptations,” said Governor McDonnell. “Parents need be informed about the dangerous substances our youth frequently encounter and be vigilant about working with their children to keep them safe. Our new SAVVY initiative is designed to provide information, encourage conversation and engage communities. We hope every parent in the Commonwealth will acquire the necessary knowledge to facilitate a discussion with their children about substance abuse and avoidance strategies.”

Speaking about the SAVVY initiative, Secretary of Public Safety Marla Graff Decker remarked, “Drug and alcohol addiction is not just a law enforcement problem impacting Virginians. In order to successfully address substance abuse in the Commonwealth, we must incorporate a variety of disciplines, including education and prevention, into the solution. Community awareness is a key component to prevention.”

Secretary Decker, Secretary of Education Laura Fornash and Secretary of Health and Human Resources Bill Hazel are collaborating with dozens of public and private organizations to host two fall SAVVY Expos:

Spring expos will be conducted in Tidewater and Southwestern Virginia. The expos will feature speakers and exhibitors sharing the most current information about substance abuse and prevention, spotlighting: bath salts, synthetic cannabinoids, alcohol, inhalants, prescription drug abuse and other commonly-abused substances.

“Prescription drug abuse is one of the fastest growing drug problems in the United States,” said Secretary Hazel. “Virginia prescribers increasingly use the online Prescription Monitoring Program to combat drug diversion and illegal use, but parents and community leaders must take additional steps to help protect children.”

The second component of the SAVVY initiative is the SAVVY “Schools and Communities: Recognition Program.” The departments of Education, Health, and Behavioral Health and Developmental Services partnered with educators and health professionals from the University of Virginia and Virginia Commonwealth University and the Office of the Governor to develop a recognition program to honor the leading substance abuse prevention and intervention efforts in Virginia’s schools and with community partners. The SAVVY Schools and Communities application will be available in late winter with award-winning programs honored by the governor in spring 2013.

“This comprehensive approach to highlight evidence-based prevention programming, coupled with community and parent engagement, will allow us to showcase leaders and learn from the exemplary programs,” said Secretary Fornash.

Chesterfield’s Substance Abuse Free Environment, Inc., (SAFE) is one of the SAVVY partners to exhibit at the Manassas and Midlothian expos.

SAFE Executive Director G. Wayne Frith added, “Alcohol and drug addictions are serious and treatable health problems currently impacting nearly 3.7 million Virginians. With the new SAVVY partnership, we can connect parents statewide to the information, tools and resources they need to understand the issues, talk to their children and monitor their activities. At the community level, we can join parents with other parents and urge them to work together to reduce the factors that contribute to drug and alcohol abuse, thereby making each community safer and healthier for families.”

Information about future SAVVY programs will be announced through the Secretary of Public Safety’s website and


Available to citizens statewide, Virginia’s public mental health, intellectual disability and substance abuse services system is comprised of 40 community services boards (CSBs) and 16 state facilities. DBHDS seeks to promote dignity, choice, recovery, and the highest possible level of participation in work, relationships, and all aspects of community life for individuals with a mental illness, intellectual disability or a substance-use disorder.  

1220 Bank Street P.O. Box 1797 Richmond, Virginia 23218-1797
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