2019 Annual Conference a Success

COCA Executive Director Stanley Papademetriou (far left) and COCA Board President Jobany Bedoya (far right) stand with 2019 Annual Conference award winners

The Council on Chemical Abuse held a tremendously successful Annual Conference on November 7 that focused on Addiction and the Family. A sell-out crowd of over 250 turned out to hear from a variety of inspiring and informative presenters, including Keynote Speaker Jennifer Smith, Secretary of PA Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs (DDAP).

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Other highlights of the day included an awards presentation, six breakout workshops, and a panel of speakers who shared personal stories of addiction and recovery within their families. In addition, the event, which was held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Wyomissing, featured over 20 table displays providing information about treatment and recovery services in Berks County.

PA Dept. of Drug & Alcohol Programs Secretary Jennifer Smith

The conference kicked off with an informative speech by Secretary Smith. She discussed the many statewide initiatives to reduce overdose deaths, fight the opioid epidemic, improve prevention efforts and address substance abuse trends for non-opioid drugs. Smith provided a number of facts and figures about such topics as an increase in stimulant use, a decrease in overdose deaths and the growing need for more prevention programs. She also reminded the audience of the importance of hope.

“It’s really important to talk about the hopeful side of addiction. This is a treatable disease,” Smith said.

Stories of Healing Panelists

Following Smith’s speech, the audience heard a Stories of Healing panel presentation. The panel consisted of six presenters, including two who had struggled with substance use disorder themselves and four family members.  Drawing from their own experiences, they spoke about the pain, shame and confusion that family members face when confronting addiction. They provided valuable insights into the need to create healthy boundaries, provide support, find help and rebuild relationships.

Conference attendees had the opportunity to attend three of the six workshops offered. Workshop topics included family dynamics, intervention strategies, recovery paths, family wellness, the criminal justice system, and the physiology of addiction. Attendees were also provided a buffet breakfast and lunch. During lunch, the following awards were presented:

  • THE ROGER S. HERTZ EDUCATION AWARD: First Sgt. Joseph Cipko, Reading School District
  • THE JOSEPH “BUD” HAINES COMMUNITY AWARD: Richard Bradbury, Olivet Boys and Girls
  • THE FRANCIS “FRAN” DREXLER PUBLIC SAFETY AWARD: Berks County Chief of Police Association
  • THE BETTY J. MCDONOUGH TREATMENT AWARD:  Caron Counseling Services
  • THE ALGOT “AL” ECKSTROM RECOVERY AWARD: John Janiszewski, Berks County TASC & Warm Handoff Program
  • THE GEORGE J. VOGEL, JR. PRESIDENT’S AWARD: Dr. Edward B. Michalik, Berks County Mental Health/Developmental Disabilities, Administrator & Berks County Area Agency on Aging, Executive Director


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