Avera, Hazelden and U.S. Attorney’s Office Host Conference on the Faces of Addiction
“The Many Faces of Addiction: Hope and Healing” is taking place Tuesday, Oct. 29, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Wednesday, Oct. 30, from 8 a.m. to noon at the Sioux Falls Convention Center. This event is sponsored by Avera, the U.S. Attorney’s Office of South Dakota, and the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation.
“No one knows better than members of law enforcement that we will never be able to arrest our way out of the current drug crisis,” said Ron Parsons, U.S. Attorney for the District of South Dakota. “Events like this focusing on education, awareness, treatment and support give me hope.”
Keynote speakers will be Nic and David Sheff. Nic’s heartbreaking and inspiring struggle with substance abuse disorder is the story of “Beautiful Boy,” a major motion picture, based on his father David’s bestselling book. Nic puts a compelling human face on our nation’s substance abuse epidemic, encouraging those who struggle to embrace help and bringing hope to all who are touched by it.
The audience will hear stories from individuals who have personal or family struggles with addiction. This includes KELOLAND News anchor and reporter, Angela Kennecke, who will speak on “The Broadcast that Broke My Heart,” telling the story of her daughter’s death of drug overdose and the founding of Emily’s Hope which raises funds to help people receive the help they need in the face of addiction.
Glenn and Phyllis Jorgenson will be interviewed on stage by author Terry Woster. Phyllis has recently written a book, “Self-Portrait” about the impacts of addiction on the family, and Woster wrote “It’s Great to Be Alive,” which is the couple’s story of Glenn’s addiction and recovery. Watertown optometrist Melanie Weiss will tell her story of opioid addiction, and talks by addiction experts and panel discussions will round out the agenda.
This is the sixth annual conference sponsored by Avera and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, along with other sponsors, to explore issues of justice, well-being and safety in our state and region. Past topics have included human trafficking, living with disabilities, child sexual abuse, the opioid epidemic, and addiction and suicide.
“This year, we want to put a face on the all-encompassing problem of addiction,” said Deb Fischer-Clemens, Senior Vice President for Public Policy at Avera Health. “Addiction is causing untold pain and suffering to individuals and families, and weighs heavily on communities in terms of societal problems and health care costs. It impacts about one in 10 people. It’s a disease that has no boundaries in terms of age, race, gender or socioeconomic status. No one is immune.”
Deaths from drugs, alcohol and suicide combined in the United States top 150,000 per year. “We want to help prevent these tragedies and help people recover and discover that there’s a lot of life left to be lived – substance free,” she added.
Throughout this two-day event, the goal is to open up a larger conversation between people from all walks of life in South Dakota. Attendees represent the legal system, government, health care, education, social work, ministries and more.
A turnout of 500 is expected. “This high level of interest demonstrates our collective need to work together to bring about real and significant efforts toward prevention,” Fischer-Clemens added.