One year after debuting a community-focused dialogue event modeled after the popular TED Talks, the producer of South Florida's SUD (Substance Use Disorder) Talks is organizing a second annual version that may project more of a national perspective.
“I wanted it to be a national event and a united call to action,” says Suzanne Spencer, founder and producer of SUD Talks and former executive director of the Delray Beach Drug Task Force. “Communities across the country are in similar situations.”
The March 4 event at the Crest Theater in Delray Beach will feature brief, focused presentations from five speakers, as well as a 40-minute keynote talk from nationally prominent interventionist Heather Hayes. Announcements for this year's event, for which 270 tickets are available at a cost of $27 each, invite members of the community to “stand together as one to lead a national call to action that will address substance use disorder and the opioid epidemic facing communities across the country.”
The event also will maintain a local flavor, with opening remarks from U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, a South Floridian who has sought to stem the proliferation of recovery residences in Palm Beach County; State Attorney Dave Aronberg, who has spearheaded enforcement and task force activity targeting unethical treatment and recovery support organizations; and Palm Beach Post managing editor Nick Moschella, whose newspaper has reported at length on problems in the industry. Origins Behavioral Healthcare is the presenting sponsor for SUD Talks.
The keynote talk from Hayes, CEO of Hayes, Davidson and Associates and former president of the Network of Independent Interventionists, is titled “A Nation Held Hostage.” Spencer says that as families, businesses and other entities are held captive by the scourges of addiction, leaders need to work together toward viable solutions—especially as controversial proposals such as safe injection sites for heroin users begin to emerge.
“We better unite in figuring out how we stop this disease, not talk about, 'Is this a good person or a bad person?” Spencer says.
Chelsea Laliberte, co-founder of the family outreach and education organization Live4Lali, will talk on the topic “When Beliefs Harm.” Laliberte, who has been involved in advocacy since she lost her younger brother to a heroin overdose in 2008, will warn against the practice of one's treatment/recovery philosophy becoming more of a priority than the saving of a life.
For example, “What happens when a whole segment of the population may not be able to go directly to abstinence?” says Spencer. “Are we saying that they are just a lost generation?”
Ashok P. Sharma, MD, a psychiatrist at Delray Medical Center's Fair Oaks Pavilion, will discuss “The New Threat,” and the effect of patients' numerous repeat visits to hospitals on the minset of the caregivers themselves. The effects of the opioid crisis can lead some medical professionals to ask, “Am I providing any value?” says Spencer.
Other SUD Talks presenters include:
Laura Martinez, director of psychoneuroplasticity at Origins, who will speak on the brain's ability to reposition itself;
Delray Beach Police Chief Jeff Goldman, who will discuss the balanced approach between compassion and enforcement that today's law enforcement officers must embrace; and
Jonathan Saltzburg, executive director of Caron Treatment Centers' Collegiate Recovery Services, discussing young adults' attempts to reintegrate into school and other facets of community life.
Spencer says the event should have broad appeal for an audience that includes business leaders, educators, first responders and members of the community.