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A Snapshot of the 2017 COCA Annual Conference

Nov 17, 2017 • by Anamaria Stord, Alvernia University, citizen contributor
Council on Chemical Abuse

All over the world we are fighting a war against drugs.  Addiction has become more a part of our world than ever before.  The Council on Chemical Abuse holds a conference every year educating Berks County on some of the issues of addiction.  This year the event was held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel discussing the topic of blame and shame of addiction.  When someone mentions addictions there is, more often than not, a stigma that is attached.  These negative stigmas stop, some people, who have addictions from seeking treatment.   According to the Council of Chemical Abuse, “The power of stigma is real and it brings feelings of judgment, guilt, and embarrassment”.   This year’s conference focused on these negative stigmas and how they may prevent one from seeking help and how we can try to fix this issue.

Throughout the day there were a number of presentations as well as different workshops to visit.  Starting of the day there was registration, a light breakfast and opening remarks. Following that Marty Boldin, this year’s conference keynote speaker, spoke upon addiction, the stigma behind it as well as the secrecy and shame that goes along with it.  “By collecting data on the lived experiences of persons in long-term recovery, Marty hopes to find clues to improve the American social climate for addiction remedy and thereby increase the likelihood that more people will engage in and benefit from recovery” COCA states. The panel then facilitated a discussion with the attendees.

The attendees then went to three workshops that they had pre-selected when registering for the event.  There are a total of five workshops: The Science of Addiction – Rewiring the Brain, Watch Your Language, Drugs on the Street, Getting Results from Advocacy and Spirituality- With or Without. ‘The Science of Addiction’ workshop discussed how addiction is a disease and how one does not choose to become and addict.  This workshop also covered how drugs effect one’s brain.  Alvernia University professor David Reyher presented this topic.  ‘Watch Your Language’ talked about how what we say can feed into the stigma of addiction. Jodi Holland, executive director of the Gate House, talked about how we can prevent this from happening by watching what we say and how we say it.

Todd Harris, Berks County detective, delivered the workshop ‘Drugs on the Street’.  Participants learned how these drugs are getting into our county as well as which drugs are more popular in our community than others.  There was also discussion on what we are doing to try to prevent drug usage and the spreading of illegal drugs, negative consequences like charges or jail time, and how we can help the people in their active addiction.  Getting the results from advocacy is a discussion based on how we can show our support to help make a difference.  Supporting people with addictions in their time of need can help them have hope and strive to bet this disease.  Marty Boldin, our keynote speaker, also presented duringthis workshop.  ‘Spirituality – With or Without’ talked about the important of spirituality.  A majority of recovery programs and treatments are based in spirituality. For example the twelve steps.  Rev Tom Scornavacchi, Common Ground Recovery Community lead this workshop.

Attendees had an hour and fifteen minutes at each workshop and also a break for lunch and awards.  According to COCA the award winners featured were “… individuals and/or organizations that have exemplified the highest standards in the areas of addiction prevention, intervention, treatment and recovery services”.   Attendees completed evaluations and certifications as the day’s events came to a close.

The more people are educated on this crisis the more we will be able to reach out a helping hand.  Before we can help anyone, we must be educated on this disease and that is the goal of COCA’s annual conference. Working hand and hand within our community we can fight against the war on drugs.    

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