U hosts substance abuse conference

By By Sylvia O'Hara

By Sylvia O’Hara

Native American music echoed off the walls of the Union Ballroom on June 20 while mental health and medical professionals from across the nation attended the School of Alcoholism and Other Drug Dependencies conference.

Experts, staff and volunteers gathered at the 57th annual conference, which provided information, lectures and workshops for students and professionals.

Program coordinator Susan Langston said the goal of the conference was to try to accommodate the various needs of alcoholics and drug addicts and alleviate the stigma of substance abuse.

The conference also offered Native American dance and music for outside visitors to experience the history and culture of Utah.

“(We want to) give people a taste of Utah,” Langston said.

The conference counted as two health education credit hours for students who paid the $50 registration fee and attended all sessions. The general session for students focused on substance abuse education, prevention and treatment.

More specialized courses were designed for professionals, tackling problems and techniques specific to each of the 18 sections of the conference.

“It’s a chance for me to learn new things and a chance for me to practice the things I’m learning,” said Lacee Harris, a mental health therapist.

Harris said he thought the classes about spirituality and humor would be helpful in treating alcoholics and other addicts.

Dentists, nurses, pharmacists and other professionals who have access to medications learned about the risks their patients face from drug addiction.

Heather Folkner, a pharmacy technician, said the conference discussed how professionals in her field often think they won’t become addicted to drugs because of their knowledge of their side effects and dosage.

“We think because we know about the drugs, we won’t get addicted,” she said.

The conference also served as Continuing Education credit for medical professionals. The program offered up to 29 hours of credit depending on the specific career field, and helped people become certified as substance abuse counselors.

Professionals from more than 30 states come to the conference yearly to mingle with people who understand the rigors of the job, Langston said.

The U has hosted the School of Alcoholism and Other Drug Dependencies’ annual session since 1952.

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Greg Harlow

Native American dancers gave mental health and medical professionals from across the nation a taste of Utah culture with traditional dances. The professionals were attending the Alcoholism and Other Drug Dependence conference held last week in the Union.