Symposium seeks addiction recovery solutions

A symposium is scheduled for later this month that will seek to create a blueprint for improving long-term substance abuse recovery efforts in Pasco County.

The Recover Out Loud Pasco Symposium is set for Sept. 28 from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., at Calvary Chapel Worship Center, 6825 Trouble Creek Road in New Port Richey.

Admission is free.

The symposium is being organized by Recovery Epicenter Foundation, a newly licensed and accredited recovery community organization operating out of Trinity.

The symposium will seek to engage individuals, stakeholders and community leaders in an effort “to grow community-oriented initiatives, cultivate community allies, and develop recovery peer-based programs,” according to the event’s flyer.

Its keynote speaker is Dona Dmitrovic, executive director of Las Vegas-based Foundation for Recovery and former National Director of Consumer Affairs for Substance Use Disorders at Optum, United Health Group.

Other noted speakers include:

  • Tina Levene, motivational speaker and published author on abuse and addictions
  • Pasco Sheriff’s Office Lt. Toni Roach, who heads the agency’s Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) and Mental Health and Threat Assessment (MHAT) teams
  • Sara Mollo, Sixth Judicial Circuit chief assistant public defender
  • Former Sixth Judicial Circuit Court Judge Lynn Tepper
  • Sarah Cobelli, Baycare Behavioral Health program manager
  • Ginny LaRue, Florida Alcohol & Drug Abuse Foundation recovery project director

Additionally, the symposium will feature interactive café conversations about which recovery-related services are working in the community and what needs more support, along with a series of panel discussions from people in recovery and existing recovery community organizations throughout Florida.

Thoughts and input gathered from the symposium will be incorporated into the Recovery Epicenter Foundation’s visioning process in November to better define action steps for recovery-based programming, said Recovery Epicenter Foundation RCO director Rachel Starostin.

“The whole thing is we want to get the community together,” said Starostin, who expects anywhere from 200 to 300 attendees at the symposium. “The community benefits when we all collaborate together.”

Trinity-based Recovery Epicenter Foundation is hosting a symposium to help find ways to improve long-term substance abuse recovery efforts in Pasco County. The Recover Out Loud Pasco Symposium is set for Sept. 28. (Courtesy of Recovery Epicenter Foundation)

Starostin said the Recovery Epicenter Foundation’s “ultimate goal” is to build a peer-run, recovery-oriented community center to facilitate programs in the way of employment assistance, transportation, health and wellness, recreational opportunities, independent support groups and so on.

“We’re like building a shell out of something that needs to exist. We’re building something out of nothing,” she said.

“It’s kind of an abstract concept, when you don’t have a building and trying to plan out the future,” she said.

Starostin emphasized the need for such a recovery facility to help people “rebuild their lives” once they get out of addiction treatment. That assistance may initially include assisting them with “locatable, tangible resources,” such as basic medical care, living shelters, food stamps and more.

Starostin put it like this: “As a general rule, until you meet somebody’s basic needs, they’re not really receptive to listen. Like, how well do you focus when you’re hungry and you haven’t eaten in two days?”

Meanwhile, Starostin said the upstart recovery community organization is looking to mobilize more peer specialists to help with implementing various recovery programs. Peer specialists, or peer coaches, are people who have been successful in the recovery process who help others battling addiction through shared experience, understanding, respect and mutual empowerment.

Said Starostin, “There’s something magical when one peer who’s suffered from substance use works with another. You identify with them, you trust them, and it’s not like a 12-step program, you help somebody kind of come up with their own plan.”

Recovery Epicenter Foundation’s recovery community organization operates as an independent, nonprofit entity — led and governed by representatives of local communities of recovery.

Its mission is to support recovery through advocacy, education and peer-to-peer support services, to improve outcomes for persons seeking drugs and alcohol addictions.

Guidance and technical assistance on the Recovery Epicenter Foundation recovery community organization’s development process is coming from the Florida Recovery Project/Faces & Voices of Recovery, with collaboration from Florida Alcohol & Drug Abuse Foundation, Florida Department of Children and Families, and Peer Support Coalition of Florida.

An initial community listening session for the recovery community organization was held in February at the Land O’ Lakes Community Center, followed by a symposium planning session.

The sessions have already brought together dozens of stakeholders, including persons in recovery and professionals in health care, criminal justice, faith-based organizations and others.

“When we started this process, there wasn’t a whole lot of momentum behind it, but we’re getting it; people are getting involved and they’re starting to understand,” Starostin said.

To register for the symposium, visit

For information, contact Rachel Starostin at or (727) 255-2036.

Published September 11, 2019

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