A community that often is dubbed the nation's capital for recovery also would like to become known as a center for advanced dialogue on community solutions to drug problems.
Next February, Delray Beach, Fla., will host a three-hour event modeled after the popular TED Talks in which speakers offer brief (generally under 18 minutes), focused presentations to spread ideas on a topic of interest. The Delray Beach Drug Task Force, which has succeeded locally in bringing leaders together for monthly discussions of community issues, has trademarked the name SUD Talks (for “Substance Use Disorder”) for what it hopes will become a recurring event in the city.
“I'm a big fan of TED Talks,” says Suzanne Spencer, executive director of the task force. “I was watching one at my home, and I thought, 'What if there were an industry-specific event around the topic of creating change?'”
The speakers at the Feb. 11 event at the Delray Beach Center for the Arts' Crest Theater (accommodating just over 300 guests) therefore will address the audience not on their areas of clinical or policy expertise, but on their vision for how to create change in communities challenged by substance use problems. The typically brief talks will be followed by a 45-minute presentation by the event's visionary speaker: author and integrative physician Carl Hammerschlag, MD.
Task force's progress
The event also illustrates the continued maturation of the task force in Delray Beach, home to the nation's most prominent concentration of recovery residences (and located in a surrounding region with a substantial presence of primary addiction treatment facilities as well). The task force was founded by a former mayor in the 1990s and was intended to serve in an advisory capacity to local government, but those ties weakened over the years until the group began to regain its footing in the city in the past few years, explains Spencer.
The task force now has a 45-member advisory board that represents diverse sectors of the community, and its monthly meetings feature a presence from law enforcement, educators, the business community, and treatment and recovery professionals.
Spencer, whose work in the field has included recovery coaching and development of school-based prevention programming, says that while task force members still bring differing perspectives on some issues, they attend the monthly meetings mindful of a greater good. The growth of the sober-home community has been met with opposing views in the community and at the state level over the years, although today there is greater consensus that newly adopted legislation in Florida can succeed to identify the highest-quality recovery residence operations for purposes of referral.
“We're advocating for the entire community, not just for people in recovery,” says Spencer.
Lineup of speakers
Other presenters at the February event will include:
Kevin Wandler, MD, associate chief medical officer at Advanced Recovery Systems.
John Dyben, director of older adult treatment services at Hanley Center.
Elaine Rotenberg, clinical director at West Palm Beach-based Alpert Jewish Family and Children's Services.
Marc Woods, Delray Beach's code enforcement officer.
Spencer says she is looking to fill one more speaking slot with an individual of national prominence. She adds that Hammerschlag's lengthier talk, sponsored by law firm Weiner Lynne & Thompson, PA, with offices in Delray Beach, will be followed by a panel discussion. She believes that the event will help sectors of the community understand their potential role in bringing about change.