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FSU Appalachian Festival Symposium to Highlight Obstacles and Opportunities

FSU Appalachian Festival Symposium to Highlight Obstacles and Opportunities
Appalachian Festival Symposium keynote speaker John Temple

A discussion of the region’s most serious obstacle – opioid addition – will lead off Frostburg State University’s symposium on “Appalachia: Obstacles and Opportunities” on Friday, Sept. 16, as part of the annual Appalachian Festival. The symposium will provide the community with an opportunity to engage in productive and positive discussions about the region’s obstacles as well as its opportunities.

The emergent cannabis industry, efforts by the region’s youth to combat the Appalachian “brain drain,” economic development focused on the Great Allegheny Passage, cultural and environmental sustainability, and regenerative agriculture will be other topics at the symposium from 1 to 8 p.m. on FSU’s Upper Quad. The symposium is free and open to the public.

The symposium begins at 1 p.m. with a keynote presentation by John Temple, a professor of journalism at West Virginia University and the author of three nonfiction books. Temple will discuss his latest work, “American Pain: How a Young Felon and His Ring of Doctors Unleashed America’s Deadliest Drug Epidemic,” which chronicles the rise and fall of this game-changing pill mill, and how it helped tip the nation into its current opioid crisis, the deadliest drug epidemic in American history. The narrative is populated by a gaudy and diverse cast of characters, including the wealthy bad boys, thugs and physicians who built “American Pain,” as well as penniless Kentucky clans who transformed themselves into painkiller trafficking rings. It includes addicts whose lives were devastated, and the federal agents and grieving mothers who labored for years to bring the clinic’s crew to justice.

At 1:40 p.m. there will be a discussion titled “Addressing the Opioid Epidemic in Our Community” led by health department staff from Allegany and Garrett counties. After reviewing local and state overdose data, the presenters will discuss the Overdose Response Program, Prescribe Change Allegany Campaign treatment resources, the lack of inpatient substance abuse programs and access to halfway houses in rural areas, the Addiction Happens Campaign and the Prescription Drug Action Team.

The next part of the symposium focuses on a varied series of solutions for combatting the brain drain from Appalachia and building a sustainable future. Come for “Growing Medical Cannabis in Appalachia” at 2:30 p.m. and learn about how those vying for permits believe the medical cannabis industry can positively impact economic development in the region. Next, at 3:10 p.m., Doug Riegner, director of Community Relations and Sales at Allegheny Trail Alliance, will present “Growing the Economy With the Great Allegheny Passage, Allegheny Trail Alliance” and explain how the trail is revitalizing communities and stimulating the local economy along the way. At 3:50 p.m., Stay Together Appalachian Youth, a diverse regional network of young people, will explain how their project encourages youth to stay and work in their home communities by connecting them with the resources and skills they need to make their visions for central Appalachia come true.

The last part of the symposium focuses on food security in an uncertain future. At 4:40 p.m., Dr. Gina Angiola, a retired physician and lifelong advocate for healthy environments, will present “The Planet Has a Fever, It’s Rapidly Rising ... Time for a Second Opinion?” As a climate activist for more than 12 years, Angiola has focused her advocacy and actions on reducing emissions from the energy sector and conventional food production, but she now recognizes the urgent need to add ecological restoration to the agenda if a stable climate system and a livable planet for future generations are to be re-established.

In a discussion on regenerative agriculture at 5:20 p.m., farmers from Western Maryland will share their experiences engaging in a combination of traditional and cutting-edge farming techniques to create more sustainable food systems in the region.

“Land-of-Plenty Deliberation Session: How Can We Assure That People Have the Food They Need?” will follow at 6 p.m. By participating in this session, community members will have the opportunity to contribute to the final version of the National Issues Forum guide to be published by the Kettering Foundation and used nationally as a discussion tool for citizens passionate about creating workable solutions for their communities. Communication Studies faculty Dr. Elesha L. Ruminski and Christine Willingham, participants in a Kettering Foundation learning exchange to support creation of the FSU communication leadership lab, will convene and moderate the discussion.

The final event of the symposium will be dinner on the grounds and evening entertainment with Dr. Doug Hendren. Using what he calls his “musical scalpel,” Hendren, a retired orthopedic surgeon in Virginia, writes songs and blogs about the broken political and economic systems that are driving everyone to liquidate the natural world to pay “bills.” His songs ask, “Exactly where are we?” “How did we get here?” and “How can we recover a world worth passing on to our children?”

The symposium leads up to the free festival on Saturday on FSU’s Upper Quad from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. There will be live music, games, food and more.

For more information, visit or contact Kara Rogers Thomas at 240-522-7635 or

Situated in the mountains of Allegany County, Frostburg State University is one of the 12 institutions of the University System of Maryland. FSU is a comprehensive, residential regional university and serves as an educational and cultural center for Western Maryland. For more information, visit or Follow FSU on Twitter @frostburgstate.

FSU is committed to making all of its programs, services and activities accessible to persons with disabilities. To request accommodations through the ADA Compliance Office, call 301-687-4102 or use a Voice Relay Operator at 1-800-735-2258.


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