BECKLEY (WVDN) – Carley Knuckles, a junior nursing student at the WVU School of Nursing Beckley Campus, recently attended the 21st Annual Mid-Year Training Institute hosted by Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA), which aims to create and maintain safe, healthy and drug-free communities globally.
Knuckles is passionate about mental health, substance use prevention, and recovery efforts. At the Beckley Campus, located at WVU Tech, Knuckles launched a chapter of Active Minds, a national nonprofit organization supporting mental health awareness and education.
She also serves as a student leader with the WV Collegiate Strategic Prevention Framework Partnerships for Success (C-SPF PFS), which aims to prevent the onset and reduce the progression of substance misuse and its related problems among higher education students in a 21-county area covering southern West Virginia.
“In the prevention community, especially with the recent increase of substance use and overdoses, nonprofits are starting to help fund lesser-known coalitions to help them with their involvement, so the work is happening not just internationally, but on a state and regional level as well,” Knuckles explained.
During a previous prevention conference held in Glade Springs, Knuckles gave a presentation about how to increase engagement and prevention efforts on social media. Afterwards, several attendees recommended CADCA conferences as future opportunities for Knuckles.
With support from her C-SPF PFS team, she traveled to Orlando for the July 17-21 CADCA Training Institute.
“I had never been to a five-day conference before, but I decided to create ‘Knowledge Bits’ for the coalition members,” Knuckles said. “The information at the conference was targeted to us as coalition members, about how we can help better serve our community, so I offered the Knowledge Bits each day as a way to reinforce what we were learning.”
Knuckles found the topics presented at the conference highly relevant, especially the information about counterfeit substances and the threats they pose. She plans to take her new knowledge and share it in her work on campus.
“For my peers, fellow students and people in my family and community, I’m going to emphasize the importance of only taking medication that’s prescribed to you or purchased over the counter,” she said. “You should never buy medications online or take medications from unknown sources.”
While some information was discouraging, Knuckles said she learned that vaping use has significantly decreased in West Virginia. She said she and her team try to focus on a strength-based approach: rather than saying 19% of West Virginians vape, they say 81% of residents do not vape.
“When we’re in this young adult phase of our lives, we’re trying to figure out who we are, who to surround ourselves with, and using substances has been part of that throughout college history. We’re trying to mitigate that by flipping the focus toward the positive number.”
She is hopeful her new knowledge can support her prevention and recovery work, as well as her mental health work, as substance use and mental health are oftentimes intertwined.
“I also learned how to make my events on campus more engaging,” Knuckles said. “I want to help people learn something, to help make them want to be a part of it. Even something as simple as offering a cup of coffee can help spark conversations about why this information is important.”
Knuckles also hopes to continue attending conferences to grow her knowledge base. She is also interested in presenting at future conferences as well.
“I always thought that was out of reach for me, to be a speaker or a presenter, but making connections with people from all across the world, I feel inspired to do that.”