While there are no easy ways to stop substance abuse, there are steps that can be taken to reduce it.
Those strategies will be the focus of discussion during the fifth annual Substance Abuse Prevention Conference planned for April 29 at Saddlebrook Resort.
The event is being presented by BayCare Behavioral Health and Pasco ASAP. The conference is from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., at 5700 Saddlebrook Way in Wesley Chapel.
“It’s a community conference, so it’s really our opportunity to get new people to take a stake in the coalition and the work of the coalition,” said Monica Rousseau, Pasco County ASAP Coordinator and conference co-chair.
The conference theme is “Strengthening Our Community: Creating Healthy Solutions.”
Throughout the day, speakers and presenters will share their expertise, solutions and tools. There also will be more than 20 vendors representing behavioral health providers and businesses. There will be panel discussions and breakout sessions, as well as keynote speakers.
“From my perspective, the main goal is to get people pumped about tackling substance abuse disorders and substance misuse in Pasco County, and getting people to realize that everybody has a stake in this, and everybody can do something,” Rousseau said.
Substance abuse is a problem that has wide-ranging impacts and can’t simply be left to “others” to resolve, she said.
“These are not just issues that need to be solved by politicians. They’re not just issues that need to be solved by community leaders. Regular, everyday, community members — parents, teachers, people without kids. Everybody has a role,” Rousseau said.
“It’s not just people that are abusing or misusing drugs that are affected. Everybody is affected,” she added.
Pasco County Tax Collector Mike Fasano, a former Florida lawmaker who spearheaded the state’s prescription drug monitoring program, will open the conference.
Other speakers include BayCare Healthcare System’s CEO Stephen R. Mason, who will talk about wellness and health care integration and Lt. Commander Michael Muni, who served on President Obama’s Task Force on Heroin.
“The real takeaway from this conference is that people will learn strategies,” Rousseau said.
“You will come and be inspired to take home solutions to apply to where you live, work and play,” she added.
One panel will feature Kurt Browning, superintendent, Pasco County Schools; Doug Leonardo, executive director, BayCare Behavioral Health; Kelly Mothershead, owner, A Focus on Fitness Transformation Studio and Salon; Michael J. Napier, administrator, Florida Department of Health Pasco County; Chris Nocco, Pasco County Sheriff, and Kathryn Starkey, Pasco County Commissioner. Panelists will address the community’s response to substance abuse in Pasco County.
“Each of them are tackling substance abuse, in one way or another,” Rousseau said.
Young people will be moderating the Mothers Against Drunk Driving’s panel, and will be raising questions on a number of issues, Rousseau said.
The conference also will address an effort that’s underway to respond to substance abuse differently than in the past, she said.
Previously, she said, “substance abuse has been treated as a separate entity. We’re really trying to move toward integrating it into general health and wellness conversations.
“By treating it as something separate, we’re only facilitating that stigma,” she said.
Rousseau said the community also needs to change its mindset about the issue.
“When I moved here, people asked me: ‘Why would you move here? This is the pill capital of the world, and it’s never going to change.’ And, I would look at them and go, ‘No, I’m here to change that.’’’
People need to realize: “You’re making it worse by saying that,” Rousseau said.
She hopes the conference will help inspire more people to get involved in her coalition, which is made up of volunteers.
“We know anecdotally that teachers really need help. They don’t know how to de-escalate the situation. They don’t know what to do with students who are presenting with behavioral problems. And, it’s burning them out.
“We need to teach them (teachers) strategies. We need to teach parents strategies.
“In order to do that and have a big impact, we need community members who are interested enough and passionate enough to learn this information, and share it,” Rousseau said.
Fifth annual Substance Abuse Conference
Speakers will talk about strategies to reduce substance abuse
When: April 29, 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Where: Saddlebrook Resort, 5700 Saddlebrook Way in Wesley Chapel
Cost: $15 until April 20; $25 after that. Lunch is included.
To learn more about the conference and to register, visit PascoAsap.com.
Published April 20, 2016