Hidden Figures

February is African American History Month. The original proclamation for African American History Month was issued by President Gerald Ford in 19762. From Rosa Parks to Martin Luther King, Jr. and President Barack Obama, African Americans have made and continue to make major contributions to American history3. African Americans have endured over 400 years of toxic stress and trauma through slavery, the Jim Crow Era, the war on drugs, and now institutional and structural racism1. Although we recognize the struggles, we want to honor the triumphs and resilience. Due to the leadership from many, we have been able to see progress made in equality in the fields of substance abuse prevention, treatment and recovery.

Below are just a few examples of African American leaders and pioneers in the fields of prevention, treatment, and recovery.

  • Henry McNeil “Mandrake” Brown (1935-1996): He is known for protesting alcohol and tobacco marketing products in African American communities. He is noted for being arrested for whitewashing billboards promoting these products and for using zoning laws to have over 700 illegal billboards removed from African American communities. He co-founded the Citywide Coalition Against Tobacco and Alcohol Billboards and the National Association of African Americans for Positive Imagery3.
  • Arthur C. Evans, Jr., Ph.D. (1959- ): Currently, he is the CEO of American Psychological Association (APA). He was Commissioner of the Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbilities Services. He led a recovery-focused change of Philadelphia’s behavioral health care system. This included a focus on overcoming minority community gaps in health care access and quality. Under his leadership, Philadelphia became a model for the development of recovery-oriented systems of care3.
  • Dr. Melissa Freeman (1926- ): The granddaughter of a slave, Dr. Freeman was involved in the development of using methadone to treat heroin addiction at Rockefeller University. She became the first doctor to treat a pregnant woman on methadone maintenance therapy. She is still currently practicing at the age of 92 and splits her time between her own internal medicine practice and a methadone clinic treating patients1
  • Annie Moody (DOB Unknown): She was the co-founders of one of the largest faith-based addiction ministries at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago in 1986. This organization acknowledged the growing involvement of the church in addressing addiction problems within the African American communitites3.

These individuals were able to make headway in not only their communities but in the world; to help prevent and treat substance abuse, and to provide resources to those in recovery. These men and women are just a few of many examples of the contributions made by African Americans in this field.

These advancements helped to make sure that future generations have the resources needed available to them. Parents, talk to your children about the dangers of substance abuse and know that there are resources available to help. Please educate them on the history of all Americans.


1. Chapman, E., (2019) Addressing the Opioid Epidemic in Minority Communities: “An Integrated treatment Model of Care”. Paramount Lifestyles, Inc.

2. Huang, L., Holiday-Moore, R., (2019). Three African American Leaders Making an Impact on Mental Health in the Community. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. 25 February 2019.                            

3. Sanders, M., White, W. (2016) African Americas who Have Made (and are Making) a Difference in Promoting Resistance to and recovery from Alcohol and Other Drug Problems. William White Papers. 2016.  

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Teenage years can be an exciting time for growth and learning, but it can also be one of the most difficult. As they try to find their place in the world, they face pressures of changing times, changing norms, and never ending peer pressure. It is often at this time where they may start to experiment with drugs and alcohol. The average age of first use for marijuana is 14 and alcohol can start as early as 122. Teens start using for a variety of reasons such as boredom, depression, curiosity, stress, and/or peer pressure2.

Adolescents are very talented at hiding what they are doing and there are many products available at home, in stores, and online that help with this process. These items usually look like ordinary household items that are often undetected by parents. Below are a few examples of items that are most used to conceal illegal drug or alcohol use:

  • Dryer Sheets: These can be used to mask the smell of marijuana on clothing, when smoking or storing3.  These can be placed in the air vents of a bedroom or bathroom.
  • Custom Cans: There are numerous containers on the market with false bottoms or middles that can be used to store drugs. These can easily be purchased online and tend to look like everyday products like shaving cream and soda bottles3.
  • Sports Drinks and other colored and flavored drinks: Clear alcohol can easily be mixed with these and brought undetected to events3.
  • Sploof: A sploof is a homemade filter used to mask the smell of marijuana. These are usually made out of an empty toilet paper roll and dryer sheets. There are many YouTube videos that show how these are made3.
  • Homemade Smoking Pipes: These can be made out of many objects, including an apple or a soda can3.  
  • Drinking Game Paraphernalia: Items such as ping-pong balls or solo cups can be an indicator of alcohol use3
  • Flasks: These are available in many different shapes and sizes, including hairbrushes, lotions bottles, and tampon cases3.   
  • Purple Drank or Lean: This is a slang term for a mixture of cold medicine,  soda, ice and hard candy. The cold medicine usually contains promethazine and codeine and the effects of the drink last anywhere from 3-6 hours3.

Unfortunately, this is not a complete list of all the items that can be hidden in plain sight in any teenage room; there are many, many more. Parents, please be aware and make yourself familiar with these items. As always talk to your children about the dangers of substance abuse.


  1. AACAP (2018) Teens: Alcohol and Other Drugs. American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. March 2018 .
  2. Drug Abuse. Teenagers and Drugs: 11 Real Reasons Why Teenagers Experiment. Drug Abuse.
  3. Power to the Parent. Hidden in Plain Sight. Power to the
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The Holidays and Grief

The holiday season is often an exciting and joyous time of the year; but for some it serves as a reminder of those loved ones who are no longer around. Grief is a powerful emotion that can wreak havoc in our everyday lives; causing anger, frustration, depression, and anxiety all at different extremes1. As humans, naturally, we avoid unpleasant situations and/or feelings due to not being able to handle or process the heavy emotions that accompany grief. This may cause some to cope in different ways such as lashing out in anger or engaging in unhealthy activities. Substance use and self-medicating are other ways that some people deal with grief. Please be aware that this only gives temporary relief and it will not permanently take away the pain. Using drugs and alcohol to suppress feelings can lead to addiction and create more negative feelings that affect your mental health.1 To help ease the holiday blues, listed below are a few healthy ways to prepare for the holidays while experiencing grief:

Trust that grief is part of healing2: Time does not heal the pain associated with a loss; it is what you do with the time that matters. Do not try to escape the pain. Grief is a process and trying to avoid it only drags out that process.

Set healthy boundaries2: You do not have to force yourself to face every holiday event or tradition. You are allowed to say no if something is going to be too painful.

*  Focus on what you can control2: We cannot keep every bad thing from occurring. Think about what you can do to lessen the impact for when things do go wrong and then pick a few things that you can do to assert some control. For example, if you know that you tend to burn things while cooking, do not offer to bring anything that involves cooking.

Plan ahead2: The holidays are stressful enough with all that goes into them and sometimes the anticipation is worse than the actual event. Create a plan for yourself, so that you can prepare for what is to come and have an escape route if needed.

Allow yourself to feel a range of emotions2: This one is very          important. Our emotions play into our everyday lives. It is our brain’s way of telling us how we feel without words. Do not block out these emotions. Embrace them and know that you do not have to hide them.

Find ways to honor your memories2: Find a special way to memorialize the person whom you have lost. Whether it is lighting a candle or eating that person’s favorite dessert. This will help you feel that even though they may be gone, their love never fades.

Create new traditions2: Sometimes old traditions fade away after a loved one has passed on. Do not be afraid to create a new tradition or alter an old one.

Do something kind for others2: Volunteering or donating gifts to someone in need are just a couple of ways that you can do something kind for someone. Performing an act of kindness can be good for a grieving person and it will help produce that feeling of having something to offer the world.

Ask for help2: Do not be afraid to ask for help when you are struggling. Whether this is a family member, friend, a professional, or even a stranger. If you feel that you need to talk to someone, there is always someone around who will listen.

Knowing healthy ways to cope and knowing when to ask for help are of the utmost importance. Parents or Guardians, if your family has recently experienced a loss, please talk to your kids about how the loss is affecting them and discuss healthy ways to manage those feelings.

              Happy Holidays from RAYSAC and a Happy New Year!


1. Addiction Center (2017).  4 Ways Greif Can Lead to Addiction. Addiction Center. 1 August 2017. retrieved 12 December 2019 from

2. Morin, A., (2015). How to Deal with Grief During the Holidays. Psychology Today.  21 December 2015. retrieved 6 December 2019 from

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Video Games and Substance Use

October brought us costumes, candy, pumpkins, and fall fun. November brings thankfulness and the start of our holiday season. Our Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa lists start to fill with gifts to buy for our family, friends, or even oneself. One of the most asked for items for kids, teens, and young adults are video game consoles and the games that go with them. These games can be a great source for fun, but they can often have themes and story lines that are not age appropriate.

As we now know, screen time can affect a child’s brain development and mental health. A recent study showed that too much screen time can affect brain processing speed3. In addition to this excess screen time, some video games tend to be centered around substance use, violence, and other harmful themes that can affect the way our children think and behave. One study revealed that video gamers have a significantly higher consumption of alcohol than non-video gamers1.  The same study also pointed out that although the problematic use of video games is often short lived, the early use of substances increases the risk for later dependency. This study pointed out the need to teach adolescents and young adults about the possible risks of video games as well as the need for parents to monitor their use1.  Listed below are a few of the top video games that have scenes of substance use in them:

  • Fallout: This game uses drugs as “boosts,” which can lead your character to have increased intelligence, damage output and resistance. This ultimately helps with beating the game. In the game, your character has to keep taking the drugs to get the boosts, which means that your character is becoming addicted2.  (Rated M for Mature; Rated R according to Parents Guide)
  • rand Theft Auto: This series of games are notorious for their profanity, sexual references and drugs. Versions of the game explore drug dealing and building drug empires, where the character can make money by selling cocaine, heroin, downers, acid, marijuana, and ecstasy2. (Rated M for Mature; Rated R according to Parents Guide)

These are just a few examples of the many games that reference drug use. Video games can be a tool that some use to escape everyday life and live in a made up world for a little bit. The question to consider is whether or not to let your children play games that include scenes involving drugs or games that are beyond the recommended age. Parents or Guardians, please research the games that your child is asking for this holiday season and talk to them about substance use and addiction.

For more information about game ratings and game reviews, please visit the following sites:

  • (search for your game of choice and under ‘storyline’, click ‘parent’s guide’)


  1. Coeffec, A., Romo, L., Cheze, N., Riazuelo, H., Plantel, S., Kotbagi, G., and Kern, L., (2015). Early substance abuse consumption and problematic use of video games in adolescence., Frontiers in Psychology. 28 April 2015.
  2.  Edwrads, A., 14 Video games that let players take  drugs and completely trip.
  3. Saker, A., (2019). Too much screen time changes children’s brains, study finds. USAToday. 4 November 2019.
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What is vaping?

Vaping began as an alternative for adults who smoked cigarettes to help them stop smoking. It has now grown to include recreational use. Vaping involves the use of an e-cigarette, which can come in many different forms and  brands. Some of these look like a USB drive and can be easily hidden. Most put off little to no smoke, making them hard to see or smell. These devices are battery-operated and are used to inhale an aerosol, which typically contains nicotine, flavorings, and  other chemicals3. Nicotine is highly addictive and is known to affect brain development by impacting the reward system3. We have recently seen a rise of use in our middle and high school students locally. The 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Survey results show that 47.1% of high school students and 19.7% of middle school students in the Roanoke Valley said they had used an electronic vapor product. This is an increase from 2017, where 39.8% of high school students and 15.1% of middle school students reported that they had ever used an electronic vapor product.

Why is vaping so attractive to kids?

Vape pens and accessories are easily available, are advertised heavily, currently come in different flavors, and are believed to be safer than cigarettes. All of these factors contribute to making them more appealing to the youth population3. As the flavors seen in e-cigarettes are sweet and fruity, it has been suggested that        e-cigarette companies are marketing them toward the youth because adults trying to quit smoking would be more likely to buy those that taste like cigarettes. 

Vaping and marijuana:

“Dabbing” has become one of the most popular ways for teens to use marijuana. This can refer to use of an      e-cigarette to ingest marijuana concentrates. These concentrates contain large amounts of THC that can be up to four times stronger in THC content than high-grade marijuana2. Most users prefer dabbing because it is smokeless, odorless, easy to hide, and it ensures an instant high when heated2.

Vaping in the news:

We have all read about the recent mystery lung illness that is spreading across our nation. The CDC has    reported 1080 lung injury cases from 48 states and there have been 18 deaths confirmed in 12 states prior to October 1, 20191. The most current findings suggest that the lung injury is associated with e-cigarette use and they also suggest products that contain THC are to blame1. The CDC suggests not using e-cigarette, or vaping products, particularly those containing THC1.

Vaping, using either nicotine or marijuana, is harmful  to a developing brain and should never be used by youth. Parents, talk to your kids about vaping, discuss the dangers, and be open to answering any questions that they may have.

For more information on vaping, visit the sites below:


  1. CDC (2019). Outbreak of Lung Injury Associated with E-cigarette use, or Vaping. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. 3 October  2019.
  2.  JTT. The Facts About Marijuana Concentrates. Just Think Twice.
  3. NIH (2019). Electronic Cigarettes (E-cigarettes). NIH National Institute on Drug Abuse. September 2019. 
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Social Media and Substance Use

The social media era is upon us and everyone always seems to have a device of some sort in their hands. Whether it is Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat or any of the others, three out of four Americans use at least one social networking site2. Social media accounts help us to make connections all over the world with a variety of different people. They allow us to talk with friends and family that may be hours away or just down the hall from us.

Social media is known to be a source for updating users on news, discussions, and most famously talking about opinions and feelings. There is, however, a dark side to this social media world. It harvests all kinds of ads and comments on drugs and alcohol. One study was able to conclude that social media users talk about the opioid epidemic on a variety of topics; how to abuse opioids, where to buy opioids, the social impact of opioid abuse and opioid withdrawal4. On the flip side, there are also many social media accounts on the internet that are trying to increase knowledge and spread information on substance use.  There is so much information available to us at just a click of a button. Information is power and social media has the ability to give us that information quickly, but at what cost? There are many pros and cons to the social media world, below are just a few:

· It allows teens to stay informed on current events and technology1.
· It is easier to study and carry out research1.
· It can boost self-esteem1.
· It keeps teens connected to friends and family5.
· It can make them feel less alone or isolated5.
· It allows teens to share ideas and explore their creative sides5.
· Teens can be exposed to cyberbullyng, depression and other mental health issues1.
· It can decrease productivity levels1.
· It can destroy social skills and self-esteem1.
· It can lead to the sharing of too much information1.
· There have been reports of social media being used as a strategy for selling drugs3.
· Teens are exposed to tobacco, electronic cigarettes, and alcohol ads from industry and posts about substances by their friends3.

The internet has allowed us to have so much ease with research and connectivity, but with the development of social media platforms, it has opened the doors for exposure to topics like substance use. It can either glorify substance use, or help to inform us on the dangers of them. Parents, take the time to discuss the dangers of social media and set limits on its use with your teens.


1. Austin, K.. (2016). The Pros and cons of teens on Social media. PhoneSheriff. 23 June 2016.

2. Chary, M.,  Genes, N.,  Giraud-Carrier, C., Hanson, C., Nelson, L., Manini, A., (2017).  Epidemiology from Tweets: Estimating Misuse of Prescription Opioids in USA from Social Media.  Journal of Medical Toxicology. December 2017, 13(4), 278-286.

3. Costello, C., Ramo, D. (2017). Social Media and Substance Use: What Should We Be Recommending to Teens and Their Parents? Journal of Adolescent Health. 60 (2017) 629-630.

4. Pandrekar, S., Chen, X., Gopalkrishna, G., Srivastava, A., Saltz, M., Saltz, J., & Wang, F. (2018). Social Media Based Analysis of Opioid Epidemic Using Reddit. AMIA. Annual Symposium proceedings. AMIA Symposium, December 2018, 867–876.

5. TISPY. 7 Pros and Cons of Social Media for Teens and How Parents Can Monitor It. TISPY: Parental Monitoring Software.

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Televisions (TVs) have been popular since they were first developed. Now, they have become much more than just a source for information. They are a form of entertainment that allows us to see the news, TV shows, and movies of all kinds.

Most families have at least one TV in their home while many have two or more. According to the University of Michigan Health System, more than 70 percent of children ages 8 to 18 have TVs in their bedroom3. This gives kids access to TV shows and movies that may be inappropriate for them. One study suggests that television influence can increase violent acts, substance abuse and sexual activity in youth1. For example, one-half of the G-rated animated feature films, as well as many music videos, show alcohol and tobacco use as normal behavior without conveying the long-term consequences1. Most shows are usually harmless and have little content that could be harmful to children. Here are a few, however, that you should be aware of:

  • 13 Reasons Why: This is a Netflix drama and is based on a novel by Jay Asher. The show depicts a teenage girl, Hannah, who completes suicide after she is harassed and bullied by her friends and classmates. Hannah leaves a box of voice recordings that tell the 13 reasons why she made the choice she did. It shows the substance abuse and physical abuse that affected Hannah’s mental status and ultimately lead to her death.
  • Euphoria: This show illustrates the lives of a group of teenagers in an American suburb. This dark story shows some of the things that our children may face in today’s changing world. The issue in this series is substance abuse, but the show also demonstrates other issues. Some of them are the transition from high school to college, anger, sexual relationships, and transgender related issues.
  • A Star is Born: This is the third remake of this movie. It follows a love story between two musicians, and one of them suffers from substance use disorder for drugs and alcohol. The movie shows how substance use disorder affects all aspects of life for not only the sufferer, but also for those that love them.

The TV shows that our children watch can have an impact on them! Television often depicts substance use as hip, sexy and largely consequence-free; not showing the health, social or legal costs.2 These shows can either raise awareness, or normalize substance abuse, violence and much more. Either way, it is important for parents to pay attention to what their children are watching, and to have the conversation. Please visit for more information on how to talk to your kids about substance use and misuse.  


1. Canadian Paediatric Society. (2003). The impact of media use on children and youth. Paediatric Child Health. May-June 2003. 8(5). P.301-306.

2. CMCH, Alcohol, tobacco, and drugs. Center on Media and Child Health. .

3. Live Strong. How much TV does the average child watch each day? LiveStrong.


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Music and Drugs

Music is a major media source that has the ability to connect people to a wide range of topics. Music often serves as a break for people to get out of their own reality for a little bit. But how common is it for there to be explicit content in our music? A 30-year study was able to find that there is increasing prevalence in the mentioning of opioids and other drugs in today’s songs. Nearly 50% of the 2016 Top 40’s songs referenced drugs or alcohol1.

The music that our children hear on a daily basis is full of references to drugs and alcohol. With a rise of overdoses seen across the country, it is inevitable that there may be a connection. Rap and pop music are not the only genres that these lyrics are found in. Many other genres also contain the same lyrics or variations of the reference. Some examples include:

  • Sicko Mode by Travis Scott: “I did half a Xan, thirteen hours ‘til I land. Had me out like a light, ayy, yeah” (Xan = Xanax)
  • Mask Off by Future: “Percocets Molly, Percocets Percocets Molly, Percocets Rep the set”
  • Sittin’ At a Bar by Rehab: “She was trippin’ on some bills. I think she was high on some pills”
  • Takin’ Pills by Pistol Annies: “Well who is gonna pay these bills. When one’s drinking, one’s smoking and one’s taking pills”
  • Be Like Me by Lil Pump: “Everybody wanna be like Pump. Everybody got fake dreads and love to take drugs”
  • Zack and Codeine by Post Malone: “I wake up, rinse my mouth with codeine”
  • Drug Ballad by Eminem: “Cause every time I go to try and leave. Something keeps pullin’ on my sleeve. I don’t wanna, but I gotta stay. These drugs really got a hold of me”

These are just a few examples from current music but we know that from decades past, this is not new. Music can be a powerful tool to escape everyday life and to find your own inspiration. The question remains; by putting substance use on a pedestal through musicality, are we causing more harm? Since we cannot control every aspect of a child’s life, it is even more important for parents to monitor the music their children listen to. Parents should also discuss substance use and abuse and addiction with their children and be open to finding answers to any questions that the child may have.

It is very important for kids to know the dangers that can come from abusing drugs and alcohol. Parents please continue to monitor what your child is reading, watching, and listening to. Stay tuned for more information in the coming months.


1. Hamba, C., Hanba, D., (2018). Opioid drug prevalence in top 40’s music: a 30 year review.  The Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine. September 2018, 31(5) 761-767.

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The rate of overdoses related to prescription painkillers and other opioids within the U.S has increased over the past two decades; where an average of 91 Americans die from an opioid overdose each day.1 The term ‘opioid’ is becoming an everyday term heard on a multitude of media platforms. It is seen and heard on the news, social media, and in our music on a regular basis. Blame for this epidemic is being placed on many different institutions including the government and pharmaceutical companies. But the question is how is the media’s influence affecting our communities and perceptions?

Stigma is a topic of discussion that is commonly associated with the opioid epidemic. The news outlets tend to paint a picture of opioid abusers and make it hard for individuals suffering to seek out help. One article stated that, “more that 80% of stories included a depiction of a single opioid abuser, with two-thirds painting a portrait of a person involved in a criminal activity”.4 This accusation makes it difficult for the public to see that this epidemic is affecting every population and not just convicted criminals.

Social media is known to be a source for updating users on news, allowing for open discussion, and for talking about observations and feelings. One study was able to conclude that the opioid epidemic is talked about online in a variety of topics, including ‘how to abuse opioids’. This was followed by the social impact of opioid abuse and then opioid withdrawal. It also concluded that anonymous accounts are used most for one-time posting which may contain sensitive information specific to the user.3 This indicated that there is still a sense of shame and stigma surrounding opioid use.

Music is another media outlet that has the ability to connect topics to a wide range of people. It can serve as an outlet for people to escape their world. But substance use and abuse can be seen through many genres. A 30 year study was able to conclude that the mention of opioid drugs and medications emerged in the late 1990s. Since then, 57.1% of opioid-referencing songs mention opioid medication and not heroin or street slang2. As more and more lyrics contain the use of opioids the question remains; how is this affecting our youth?

Media is influential and all need to be careful and pay attention to how it affects them. Parents should continue to monitor what your child is reading, watching, and/or listening too. Stay tuned for more information in the coming months.


1. AAMC. (2019). Responding to the opioids epidemic through education, Association of American Medical Colleges. 14 May 2019.

2. Hamba, C., Hanba, D., (2018). Opioid drug prevalence in top 40’s music: a 30 year review.  The Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine. September 2018, 31(5) 761-767.

 3. Pandrekar, S., Chen, X., Gopalkrishna, G., Srivastava, A., Saltz, M., Saltz, J., & Wang, F. (2018). Social Media Based Analysis of Opioid Epidemic Using Reddit. AMIA. Annual Symposium proceedings. AMIA Symposium, December 2018, 867–876.

4. Pharmacy times. (2016). How the media frames opioid abuse. Pharmacy Times. 10 January 2016.

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Elevate Your Vibe

This month, RAYSAC will be holding the first ever, Elevate Your Vibe Fest! The event will take place May 11, 2019 from 10am-3pm in Wasena Park. Its purpose is to promote alternative wellness options for managing pain, sadness, boredom, and anxiety. Due to the increasing rates of substance abuse, RAYSAC wants to introduce alternative highs to the community so that they may find creative and healthy ways to enjoy a meaningful, productive and satisfying quality of life.


Research has proven  that participation in hobbies, physical activities, or passions that do not involve alcohol or drugs, can decrease opportunity for boredom, reduce stress, build connection and aid in breaking bad habits.*

We are excited to connect Roanoke Valley residents to local organizations and/or businesses that inspire lifestyles driven by healthy interests. Our hope is that you might find a new passion, a new hobby, or simply a new way to deal with pain and the unpredictability of life. 

The Elevate Your Vibe Fest has partnered with over 35 vendors which include: outdoor adventure, pets, massage, meditation, dance, nutrition, aromatherapy, acupuncture, running, gardening, and much more. There will be plenty of activities, food, raffle prizes and stage performances for all to enjoy.

Please come out to Wasena Park on May 11th for a jam packed day of fun and learning. In the event of any weather related issues, the make-

up date for the event will be held on May 18th; same place, same time!

Check out and our Facebook page to learn more about the event and vendors.

Important Dates: Elevate Your Vibe — May 11, 2019 from 10am to 3pm •  Next RAYSAC Steering Committee Meeting — June 13, 2019 from 4:00pm—5:30pm  at Williamson Rd. Library.

*Reference: SAMHSA/CSAT. Brief Interventions and Brief Therapies for Substance Abuse. Rockville, MD: National Center for Biotechnology Information;1999. 

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