On Feb. 26, the Nature Coast Recovery Alliance — a partnership of the Hernando County Medical Society, Hernando County Medical Society Alliance, Crescent Community Clinic and the Hernando Anti-Drug Coalition — presented a symposium on addiction, substance abuse, recovery and relapse prevention. The target audience was physicians, nurses, health care professionals, attorneys, mental health and addiction counselors, educators, law enforcement, elected officials, business leaders and community advocates.
Dr. Deborah Tracy, president of the Hernando County Medical Society, moderated and gave an excellent overview of the legislative issues concerning physician pain management, and the current prescription drug abuse epidemic. Dr. Tanveer Chaudry, board certified psychiatrist and addiction medicine, and Dr. William Leech, board certified family physician and addiction medicine, addressed brain functions, addiction pathology, pharmacological interventions and rehabilitation.
Terence T. Gorski, author, international speaker and a recognized authority and pioneer in the development of relapse prevention therapy, spoke about the need for community advocacy, care and treatment for individuals with addictive disorders and understanding that addiction is a disease, not a moral failing.
A health care panel of: Mary Woods, CEO of WestBridge Community Services; Valerie Weaver, director outpatient services at Springbrook Hospital; Dawn Weaver, program coordinator counseling services at BayCare Behavioral Health; Matt Fox, WestBridge Community Services; Judy Thompson, president of NAMI Hernando and obstetrical nurse Spring Hill Regional Hospital; and Cindy Thomas, neonatal ICU nurse Spring Hill Regional Hospital, addressed the need for community activism to question how county and state funding is allocated.
Emphasis needs to be on prevention, treatment and resources with way too much money spent after the fact on neonatal care, family court and government-mandated family services, emergency services and emergency room visits and incarceration. It amounts to a substantial cost to state and local budgets.
A majority of crime is committed by those seeking money for drugs. Incarceration does not equal rehabilitation. Our county needs more treatment facilities, not jail space. The criminals need to know that Hernando County will not tolerate being an easy place to commit their criminal acts and that our citizens are firmly committed to creating a safe and secure environment.
While over 80 people attended, most were mental health and social service professionals. Every person in this community is impacted by the scourge of addiction and related issues that weaken and destroy the fabric of our community. If we are not part of the solution we are part of the problem, whether we like it or not. The problems will not go away and will impact each and every one of us. We need the key people in our community in attendance to help us problem solve.
Business and professional people have settled in Hernando County to raise a family, practice their professions and create a life for themselves. They play a major role in the life of the community. We need them to use their skills and leadership abilities to engage in civic activities to help improve the community.
We are experiencing a housing crisis, high school drop outs, unemployment, lack of growth in industry and a reputation as a drug community and infant addiction. This is not the reputation of which we can be proud. Nor does it encourage our best and brightest to want to settle here. How low are we willing to sink? What reason will our children have to stay here or for successful people to want to relocate here?
Many times during the discussions, the same issue came up: Where will we find the money and resources to fix this problem? Why is it that Hernando County seems to be the county that gets opted out of many opportunities that other counties enjoy? No one is coming to help us. We have to help ourselves.
Join the Nature Coast Recovery Alliance or start your own grass roots movement to engage others in activities that can address the social issues that impact our quality of life. Most of us moved to Hernando County for its natural beauty, affordable housing and business growth and opportunities. Unfortunately our community has fallen on hard times.
Let's get busy to help our community get back on its feet so we can be proud of our Nature Coast community — the gateway to Tampa Bay. Please join us at 4:30 p.m. March 14 at our monthly Nature Coast Recovery Alliance Committee meeting at the Community Clinic 5244 Commercial Way in the Winchester Plaza. Contribute your ideas, abilities and skills to help our community reach its' potential.
We have everything we need to succeed. Let's strive for excellence and challenge the status quo.
Maureen Soliman is chairman of the Nature Coast Recovery Alliance.