Speaker series focuses on community and family to tackle addiction | SteamboatToday.com

Speaker series focuses on community and family to tackle addiction

Mara Rhodes has been named the regional coordinator for the RX Task Force by the Northwest Colorado Health Partnership.
John F. Russell

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — For their third annual Lunch and Learn Series, the intent is to take a broad look at the challenges surrounding addiction and substance use, said Mara Rhodes, Regional RX Task Force Coordinator for The Health Partnership.

Rhodes said the choices for the three speakers were based upon input from the community, including their most recent community survey.

“Addiction is a mental health crisis,” she said. “It is a disease,” and one around which she wants to create more awareness, de-stigmatize and provide more effective and empathetic support for those who are going through it as well as their families.

If you go

The Health Partnership and Rx Task Force Lunch and Learn Series

12 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. Bud Werner Library Hall

• Oct.3 What are we doing in the schools?

• Oct. 10 How can we connect without judgment?

• Oct. 17 How do we build family connection through trauma?

While people are becoming more aware of the risks of prescription drugs, primarily opioids, (which Rhodes is always quick to point out work well for some people), she wants this year’s speaker series to shed more light on how the community can work together to address the crisis. She wants the conversation to reach all types of substance-related addictions.

The “all-encompassing” series begins on Wednesday, Oct. 3 under the theme “Fostering Family Connection and Support through Community Education.”

The first lunch will focus on youth, answering the question “What are we doing in the schools?”

Jonathan Judge, Director of Youth Engagement for Rise Above Colorado, will share resources, explain what his organization’s outreach looks like statewide and in Routt County, and discuss “Why we’re utilizing social norming to achieve these goals/results.”

They partner with local organizations, like Grand Futures Prevention Coalition, to help implement curriculum in schools.

Their “Not Prescribed” lesson provides teens in middle and high schools with science and stories to help understand the risks of misusing prescription drugs, along with tools and resources to manage their own health, as well as advocate for the health of their friends and family, described Judge. They also use social and digital media to “consistently connect with teens across the state to provide positive messaging and educational content on platforms frequently filled with negativity and misleading content.”

For youth, said Rhodes, it is imperative to help them develop the tools to manage their emotions and find healthy outlets for coping with stress and anxiety.

On October 10, Osvaldo Cabral will center his presentation on the question, “How can we connect without judgment?”

Cabral has been working with addiction and mental health for nearly 20 years. He currently serves as director of behavioral health services at New Health Pain Treatment Centers and board president for Rise Up Community High School, a charter school in the Denver Public Schools aimed at engaging young people who have previously dropped out or are at risk of dropping out of school.

The stigma piece is crucial, said Rhodes. There is often judgment around addiction, placing blame on personal choices, parenting and morals. It is seen as a failing. “But lived experience says that is not true,” Rhodes said. When someone is suffering from an addiction or dies, there’s often a “hush, hush/rumor mill” element that goes with it.

Instead we need to gather as a community, she said, adapt as a culture, talk about it more, approach with understanding and identify substance use disorders as a disease falling under mental health.

On October 17, Dr. Michael Barnes, Chief Clinical Officer at the Foundry Treatment Center, will ask “How do we build family connection through trauma?”

The Foundry uses a long-term, comprehensive and integrative body, mind and spirit treatment program to assist people through the recovery process. They incorporate four pillars — medical, clinical, wellness and family — because “family involvement substantially increases long-term recovery rates.”

In Colorado, said Rhodes, one in two people are affected by the opioid crisis. And she heard a need from the community for more support — but not necessarily anonymous.

Addiction is very lonely, she said. “There’s a reason it tears families and relationships apart. We want to support people in recovery, and celebrate their recovery and support the family, who has also been through hell and back. It’s worth celebrating.”

The third Annual Lunch and Learn Series will be held at Bud Werner Library Hall from 12 to 1:30 p.m. Sponsored by The Health Partnership and the Rx Task Force, they are open to all and free to attend, with lunch provided on a first come, first served basis.

To reach Kari Dequine Harden, call 970-871-4205, email kharden@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @KariHarden.

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