January 7, 2020

EDC, BSAS Host Statewide Prevention Conference

Public health and prevention professionals focused on the importance of creating partnerships to address substance misuse

Reverend Mariama White-Hammond speaks during the keynote panel at the Statewide Prevention Conference.

For the sixth year in a row, EDC’s Center for Strategic Prevention Support (CSPS) organized the Massachusetts Statewide Prevention Conference, which attracted 200 health and prevention professionals working to reduce opioid, alcohol, and other drug misuse in communities across the Commonwealth.

The conference was funded and hosted by the Massachusetts Department of Health’s Bureau of Substance Addiction Services (BSAS) and was held in Norwood on December 10.

“This conference is an opportunity to come together and share ideas about how we can improve our work as prevention practitioners,” says EDC’s Gisela Rots, director of CSPS, which offers technical assistance to substance misuse prevention programs across the state and is also funded by BSAS.

This year’s conference focused on building partnerships to promote public health. EDC’s Ben Spooner says that the theme reflects the importance of partnerships among community-based coalition coordinators, school-based personnel, law enforcement, parents, and other community stakeholders in substance misuse prevention efforts.

“We often don’t think about the other people in the community who are doing prevention and how we can partner with those folks to have an even greater impact,” he says.

The opioid overdose crisis continues to harm families in her community, says Cherry Sullivan, the coordinator of Hampshire HOPE, an opioid prevention coalition based in Northampton, Massachusetts. But, she says, attending the conference has re-energized her efforts and has helped her think about new ways to promote prevention in her community.

“We as coalition coordinators and prevention specialists are in this work every day, and sometimes we get tunnel vision because there’s so much to do in our community,” Sullivan says. “So the encouragement to step back and think, what do I bring to this? But also, what does our community bring to this? And where do we have opportunities for improvement? It’s a real blessing to have that reminder.”

BSAS Director of Prevention Jose Morales, who delivered the conference’s welcome address, says that he looks forward to the event every year.

“It brings together everybody who is doing prevention in the state, both funded and unfunded programs, and they get to hear information that is relevant to them,” he says. “At the same time, [it’s important] to celebrate successes and talk about challenges. So it’s really a good gathering for everybody doing prevention.”