By Jay Meisel
TREASURE COAST - In what is being touted as the first of its kind, a drug summit next month will bring together federal, state and local officials with private organizations to discuss the ongoing drug abuse problem.
The Hanley Center, which has facilities in West Palm Beach and Vero Beach to help people with drug and alcohol addictions, is organizing the event.
Rachel Docekal, CEO of the Hanley Center Foundation, said the summit represents a departure from past practice where oftentimes each community deals with the problem on its own.
"Over the past number of years, we have seen different communities look at the policies on drug problems and put together strategies to combat it," she said.
But Ms. Docekal said that she believes a regional approach of bringing together people from a larger area may come up with new solutions.
The Drug Abuse Summit of the Treasure Coast, which primarily involves Indian River and St. Lucie counties, will be held from 7:40 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Sept. 28 at Indian River State College's Public Safety Training Center in Fort Pierce.
She said the summit will involve discussions of the problems of addiction and how law enforcement can deal with people who have drug problems.
The summit involves how addiction can be recognized and the resources that are necessary to deal with it, she said.
Prevention of drug abuse is also part of the discussion, she said.
Wayne Creelman, who is with the University of Florida school of psychiatry, said a main purpose of the summit is to educate people on the front lines of dealing with drug abuse, the signs of addiction and the resources available to help those suffering from it.
Speakers will include Steven J. Levin, chief judge of the 19th Judicial Circuit Court, Diamond R. Litty, public defender for the 19th Judicial District, and St. Lucie County Sheriff Ken Mascara.
Other participants will include State Rep. Gayle Harrell, Tom Bakkedahl, chief assistant state attorney, Indian River County Sheriff Deryl Loar and David Currey, police chief of Vero Beach.
Panel discussions will be held on topics that include understanding the scope of drug addiction; drug abuse, Florida lawmakers and policies; challenges facing law enforcement and drug abuse and education and resources, how can we affect change.
The summit will be open to the public with no admission charge, but seating is limited.
For more information or to make reservations, call Kathy Hurt at (772) 617-1721 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.