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ORAU awarded project from Appalachian Regional Commission for social media strategy to combat drug abuse and overdose

Project launches March 28 at 2016 National Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit in Atlanta

March 25, 2016

OAK RIDGE, Tenn.—The Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) awarded ORAU a project to help substance abuse organizations within the Appalachian region improve the use of social media in an effort to combat prescription drug abuse, drug overdose and related health problems. The project will engage approximately 200 individuals and five local organizations in establishing effective social media campaigns in 2016.

Mortality rates from drug overdose have risen in much of the nation, largely due to the use and abuse of prescription painkillers and illicit opioids, such as heroin. Economically distressed counties in rural Appalachia have been particularly hit hard by overdose deaths. Community-based organizations in the region are trying to combat these problems.

“Opioid abuse is undermining the potential for economic growth in Appalachia.” said Appalachian Regional Commission Federal Co-Chair Earl Gohl. “ARC has engaged ORAU to partner with community-based organizations across the region to build their capacity to take on the challenge of opioid addiction.”

ORAU will work with ARC to lead a pilot project to educate and train regional stakeholders in using social media effectively. Services will include outreach and education activities during the 2016 National Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit to be held March 28-31 in Atlanta. After the summit, selected community-based organizations will receive consulting services, training and technical assistance.

“ORAU is excited to partner with the Appalachian Regional Commission on this project, and we will strive to help make a difference with the opioid epidemic,” said ORAU Vice President of Health, Energy and Environment Marcus Weseman. “Our social media strategy will highlight the sharp rise in the number of deaths caused by prescription painkillers and illegal opioid overdoses.”

At the project’s conclusion, ORAU will evaluate this pilot and propose continuing efforts to build effective social media tools in the war against substance abuse.

Funding for this project is provided by the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) through an interagency agreement with ARC.

ARC is an economic development agency of the federal government and 13 state governments focusing on 420 counties across the Appalachian region. ARC’s mission is to innovate, partner and invest to build community capacity and strengthen economic growth in Appalachia and help the region achieve socioeconomic parity with the nation. More information is available at

ORAU provides innovative scientific and technical solutions to advance national priorities in science, education, security and health. Through specialized teams of experts, unique laboratory capabilities and access to a consortium of more than 100 major Ph.D.-granting institutions, ORAU works with federal, state, local and commercial customers to advance national priorities and serve the public interest. A 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation and federal contractor, ORAU manages the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

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