Rural Health Conference
Tackles Substance Abuse
For the first time in its 17 year history, the RoundTable melded its Annual Symposium, “Federal Day” and Oral Health Conference into a seamless whole, unified by the theme of combating substance abuse in rural New England.
Keynote speaker Dr. Harry Chen, Secretary, Agency of Human Services, VT, attributed Gov. Peter Shumlin’s 2014 State of the State address, devoted wholly to substance abuse, as the catalyst for action among all six states. Massachusetts’ Gov. Deval Patrick declared a public health emergency in his state and in June, a New England governors’ conference triggered a regional approach to the problem of opioid use and overdose. Dr. Chen said that in 2013 opiates overtook alcohol as a public health disease. “If it can happen here (Vermont), it can happen anywhere.”
Conference attendees heard encouraging news from A. Kathryn Power, Regional Administrator, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) about efforts of the Federal government to coordinate substance abuse and health promotion activities.
Dr. Hugh Silk, Clinical Associate Professor of Family Medicine & Community Health, University of Massachusetts Medical School, always a favorite speaker at the Oral Health Conference, has for years advocated for the “medical-dental connection.” Doctors, he asserts, still know too little about oral health and how it fits into overall health. Substance abusers can suffer a variety of oral health problems, which Dr. Silk sees in his current work in prisons.
A highlight of the Conference was a new film, “The Hungry Heart,” produced by Bess O’Brien, Kingdom County Productions. O’Brien was on hand to introduce her compelling film, which focused on the efforts of a long time Vermont pediatrician to help young adults in St. Albans, VT, with opioid (and other substances) addiction. The result was a gripping 90-minute of “reality” drama that left some viewers with tears in their eyes.
To read more about the Conference, click here.