Experts on addiction treatment and former addicts both shared their stories Friday to a packed room of sympathetic ears in Idaho Falls.
The crowd was gathered for the 17th Annual Mental Health Symposium, held by mental health treatment provider Rehabilitative Health Services at the ISU Bennion Student Union building. The event brings together experts and treatment providers to focus on a different concern related to mental health and wellness every year.
Rehabilitative Health Services co-owner DeVere Hunt explained that the group was inspired to focus on addiction recovery, specifically related to the opioid crisis, after hearing from the three crisis centers it managed in Idaho Falls and Pocatello.
“We see so much substance abuse at those three locations, and we know it’s something that is out there in the community,” Hunt said.
Two representatives from Addiction and Trauma Recovery Services spoke about the different options out there for long-term addiction treatment. Nurse practitioner Greg Nebeker spoke about the benefits that medication-assisted treatment can have when used properly and social worker Megan Howard focused on the importance of empathy and counseling when helping addicts to recover.
“I think that we continue, as a community and as a society, to reinforce the shame they are already struggling with,” Howard said.
Many of the presenters at the symposium had dealt with their own addiction problems in the past. Nebeker spoke about his addiction during his presentation, as did local recovery coach Stephanie Taylor-Silva.
Late in the morning, Taylor-Silva shared the story of how she went from being a survivor of human trafficking and a felon in multiple states to nine years of sobriety and receiving a full pardon from Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter in 2017. In her presentation, she thanked the number of counselors and Department of Correction workers who helped keep her on track and inspired her to help others.
“If it hadn’t been for those women, I don’t think I would have made it here,” Taylor-Silva said.
In the afternoon, the symposium held a panel discussion for veterans to discuss their history with addiction. The panel was organized by the local veterans support group Phoenix QRF and included comments from two medical experts and three former soldiers.
Phoenix also will be the recipient of the donations raised by the 5K Hustle for Mental Health that Rehabilitative Health Services is holding on Saturday. DeVere said the event had already raised $10,000 in donations to the veterans group. The run will leave from Snake River Landing at 8:30 a.m.