May 2024


May is Mental Health Awareness Month

Each May, communities around the country recognize May as Mental Health Awareness Month to address the challenges faced by millions of Americans living with mental health conditions. Nationally, nearly one in five youth will experience a mental health challenge such as depression or anxiety at some point during their life. Mental Illness can affect persons of any age, race, religion or socioeconomic status.

Making a plan to to support your mental health can help you take care of yourself and others. Here are some tips for maintaining positive mental health this month and year-round.

Pay attention to your feelings

Remember that it is okay to feel unhappy sometimes. Recognizing your feelings is the first step to addressing and nurturing them.

Develop a plan for when you are feeling stressed, sad, or lonely

This plan may include calling a friend or family member, going for a walk, engaging in an activity that brings joy, or watching a favorite movie. Having a plan ahead of time can help ensure the difficult moments are more manageable.

Practice self-care

It is important to schedule time for yourself and activities that recharge your mind and body. This may include reading a good book, working out, spending time in nature, and practicing stress management skills, such as deep breathing, meditation, and mindfulness. It is also important to remember to prioritize necessities, including eating a balanced diet, getting plenty of sleep, and finding time for exercise.

Accept your needs

Be kind to yourself! Put your own mental and physical well-being first.

Avoid alcohol and drugs

They don’t actually reduce stress: in fact, they often worsen it. If you’re struggling with substance use, misuse, or abuse, help is available.

Find support

Whether it’s with friends, family, a counselor or a support group, airing out and talking can help. Consider attending a free support group provided by NAMI Northern Virginia.  If you or someone you love is experiencing a crisis, you can call the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by dialing 988.

Know when to seek help

If you feel that your mental health struggles are becoming overwhelming and difficult to handle, it is important to seek help and know that treatment is available. Information about behavioral health services for children and families in Alexandria can be found here.

Click here to review other local and national resources for getting help.

NAMI Northern Virginia is an organization of families, friends and individuals whose lives have been affected by mental illness that advocates for better lives for those individuals who have a mental illness. Learn more about NAMI Northern Virginia here.

City of Alexandria Recognizes April as Alcohol Awareness Month

In recognition of National Alcohol Awareness Month, the Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition of Alexandria (SAPCA) hosted a series of activities throughout April. Youth, parents and caregivers, and other community members participated in several prevention efforts and awareness activities, including:

  • Visiting the Del Pepper Community Resource Center (4850 Mark Center Dr.) to view displays of student artwork promoting the benefits of a drug-free lifestyle. These displays feature the winning designs for the fall 2023 Red Ribbon Week poster contest. Artwork is displayed on the lobby level and on the fifth floor.
  • Joining SAPCA for the presentation of a proclamation recognizing April as Alcohol Awareness Month on April 24 at City Hall (301 King St.). Winners of the Red Ribbon Week poster contest were also recognized during the presentation of this proclamation
  • Attending SAPCA's Spring Community Meeting on April 25 via Zoom to learn about the latest youth substance use data trends and discuss action items to address these trends. Click here to view a recording of this meeting.

To complement these efforts, SAPCA members will continue to share prevention resources with families year-round. During several recent Alexandria Community Cookouts, SAPCA members distributed brochures highlighting the Developmental Assets -- the building blocks for healthy development -- and parent handbooks. Developed by Operation Parent, these parent handbooks raise awareness about the latest trends, warning signs, and tips for effective parent/child communication. City of Alexandria families can pick up these free resources at upcoming community cookouts or request these materials by emailing

Together, we can ensure that youth in Alexandria have the information and tools to make informed choices about their health and future so they can thrive today, tomorrow and in the future.

To learn about other ways to support local efforts to prevent youth substance use and misuse, contact Emma Beall at

April 2024 Drug Take Back Day Recap

On April 27, the City of Alexandria collected and safely disposed of 172 lbs. of unused, expired and unwanted prescription and over-the-counter medication collected during National Prescription Drug Take Back Day. SAPCA thanks and recognizes the Alexandria Police Department, Alexandria Sheriff's Office, Neighborhood Pharmacy of Del Ray, Fire Station 210, Walgreens Pharmacy at Bradlee Shopping Center, the Alexandria Opioid Work Group, and the Alexandria Medical Reserve Corps for their partnership to dispose of unused and expired medication safely.

We are also thankful for the wonderful volunteers that supported outreach efforts during drug take back day. Please join us in recognizing Baffour Afriyie, Phil Gamble, Fatma Hamid, Len Horning, Virginia Horning, Catherine Kahugi, Anita McClendon, and Arnold Rosenblatt for their help distributing free at home drug disposal kits and sharing resources about the importance of safe medication disposal during this event.

Needles are not accepted in the permanent medication drop boxes. Dispose of needles and syringes at a separate permanent drop box specifically for these items located inside the visitor's entrance at Inova Alexandria Hospital. The box is accessible at the same location and hours as the hospital’s drop off box for medications. 

Visit for more information about safe medicine disposal and to learn about Alexandria’s efforts regarding the opioid crisis.

City of Alexandria Recognizes National Fentanyl Awareness Day

The City of Alexandria and the Opioid Treatment Program hosted the third annual Fentanyl Awareness Day on May 7 at the Del Pepper Community Resource Center. SAPCA joined the Alexandria Health Department, Opioid Work Group, and staff from Adult Central Intake to raise awareness about the dangers of fentanyl and distribute health information and prevention resources, including free locking medicine boxes.

Last year, more than 70,000 Americans overdosed on illegally made fentanyl. SAPCA reminds youth and adults of the serious dangers of fentanyl poisoning from counterfeit (fake) pills and other illicit drugs. Here is what you need to know about fentanyl:

  • Fentanyl is a very strong synthetic opioid that is tasteless and odorless. 
  • Fentanyl is 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine. 
  • Street drugs can be laced with fentanyl without the user's knowledge. These may include unregulated marijuana, vaping e-liquids, fake pills purchased online, and cocaine. 
  • It may only take a small amount of fentanyl, the equivalent to a few grains of salt, to cause an opioid overdose.
  • If given in time, Narcan (also known as Naloxone) can save the life of someone who is experiencing an opioid overdose.

Help spread the word in our community:

  • Looks are deceiving -- fake pills look real. 
  • If medication has not been prescribed to you, it runs the risk of being laced.
  • Only take medication prescribed by a doctor or purchased at a pharmacy.
  • Narcan is available for free from the Alexandria Health Department and the Teen Wellness Center.

Learn about efforts to reduce the harmful effects of opioids at

Celebrate Safely: Supporting Youth to Make Healthy Choices

With the school year coming to a close, many students are ready to celebrate the end of school and the start of summer -- and for some, the beginning of the next chapter. While there is certainly cause to celebrate the academic achievement of graduating seniors, there are serious legal consequences for adults that provide alcohol to minors for any kind of party.

Please choose to celebrate safely and encourage friends and family members to do the same by ensuring youth celebrations are substance free. Under Virginia's Social Host Law, individuals who purchase for, or otherwise give, provide, or assist in the provision of alcoholic beverages to another person when they know or have reason to know that such person was less than 21 years of age can face several consequences. These include losing their driver's license for one year, receiving up to one year in jail and paying $2,500 fine for each young person who was provided alcohol. 

Make your values clear and talk to your children early and often about the consequences of underage drinking. Remember, small conversations can make a big difference. Unsure how to start the conversation? Check out these five tips for talking to teens about alcohol:

  1. Show you disapprove of underage drinking.
  2. Show you care about your child's happiness and well-being.
  3. Show you're a good source of information about alcohol.
  4. Show you're paying attention and you'll notice if your child drinks.
  5. Build your child's skills and strategies for avoiding underage drinking.

Learn more facts about underage drinking here.

Congratulations and Farewell to Alina Selnick-Escobar

We wish outgoing STOP Act Grant Coordinator Alina Selnick-Escobar as she transitions out of this role to work with the City's Sexual Assault Center. During her time with SAPCA, Alina was instrumental in expanding SAPCA's efforts to prevent youth alcohol use among middle school students, Latino youth, and Northern Virginia Community College students.

On behalf of SAPCA, we wish Alina all the best as she embarks on her next adventure and are so appreciative of all her hard work during her time here.

Quick Links

Learn more about SAPCA
Subscribe to SAPCA's e-mail list
Make a tax-deductible donation to support local prevention efforts
Upcoming Events & Resources

Interested in supporting outreach efforts during the community cookouts? Volunteers help share resources with youth and families while enjoying free food and fun activities. Contact Emma Beall at to learn more or to sign up.

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Emma Beall, MPH
SAPCA Coordinator
O: 703.746.3670 
C: 571.302.1022

Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition of Alexandria 

4850 Mark Center Drive

Alexandria, VA 22311