Substance Abuse & Prevention Experts Invest in the Health of New Jersey at Annual Statewide Addiction Conference
Even early March snows couldn’t keep the over 800 attendees, sponsors, exhibitors and presenters from getting to Atlantic City, NJ for NJPN’s 13th Annual Addiction Conference, “Getting in Tune: Harmonizing the Field of Addiction.” Those in attendance represented the full spectrum of addiction services such as prevention, treatment, and recovery support, as well as law enforcement, education, and other human services. The day of professional education and networking addressed needs relating to current and future substance abuse, addiction, mental health, and other public health topics.
“This conference is our annual signature event that highlights NJPN’s commitment to workforce development and complements the year-round training opportunities that we provide,” said Diane Litterer, the Executive Director of the New Jersey Prevention Network. “The unique element of this conference is merging all segments of the field together to harmonize our efforts to best serve the community. This annual conference gives us a chance each year to learn, network, and energize the professionals that make a difference in the lives of New Jersey citizens every day.”
The annual event is also about building and maintaining a sense of community within the field of substance abuse prevention and treatment. In this vein, Diane Litterer’s opening remarks included a moment to reflect on the loss of two of NJ’s leaders in the addiction field over the last year. The shared memories of Carolyn Hadge and Riley Regan as pioneers, advocates, compassionate, and champions for those suffering from addiction were met with a round of applause.
The conference keynote featured Dr. Richard Catalano, who for over 30 years has led research and program development to promote positive youth development and prevent problem behavior. His research framed the risk and protective factors that often predetermine substance abuse and other problem behaviors among our youth. Additional speakers offered conference tracts highlighting some of the most important topics before the field today, including: female gang activity, alcohol and the teen brain, impact of nutrition and health on substance abuse treatment outcomes, current NJ drug trends, teen suicide and substance abuse, the value of opt-in random drug testing in middle and high school, best practices in treating co-occurring disorders, and a look at compulsive behaviors such as sex, the Internet, gambling and others. Attendees also attended sessions on applying different treatment philosophies, as well as how to utilize research based prevention strategies to improve community planning. In addition, event attendees had access to over 40 exhibitors offering services and program information related to the field.
Attendees agreed that the daylong event delivered. “The workshops I attended had very good information and the presenters were very knowledgeable and passionate about their subjects,” said one attendee.
“I appreciate the chance to gather new and helpful information, as well as the opportunity to network with colleagues from the field such as teachers, co-workers, and referral sources” another concurred.
The Conference could not have happened if not for the grant from the New Jersey Division of Highway Traffic Safety, and sponsorships from the Governor’s Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, Seabrook House, New Jersey Health Initiatives, High Focus Centers, American Addiction Centers, Atlantic Prevention Resources, Prevention Plus in Burlington County, the Partnership For a Drug-Free New Jersey. Camden County Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, Prevention First of Monmouth and Ocean Counties, and the Center for Prevention and Counseling in Sussex County.
Additional support and planning was provided by some of NJPN’s partners including The United States Drug Enforcement Administration, the New Jersey State Police, the New Jersey National Guard, the Institute for Prevention: Barnabas Health, Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Director’s Association, and the United States Army Substance Abuse Program. For the past 13 years, these organizations have joined together to look at the state of drug and alcohol abuse within New Jersey and have developed a conference geared towards preventing use and abuse of dangerous substances. Plans for the 14th Annual Addiction Conference to be held at the Atlantic City Convention Center in March 2014 are already under way to build a conference that worthy of its reputation as being one of the field’s premier conferences in the region supported by local, state, and national organizations.