Conference, town hall to address opioid epidemic’s impact on region’s children, families

IPAC, working collaboratively with community partners, will host a professional conference and community town hall focused on building supportive communities around children and families affected by the opioid crisis.

Both the conference and town hall, titled No One Left Behind: Building Supportive Communities Around Children and Families Affected by the Opioid Crisis, are scheduled for Tuesday, April 18, at the Lodge at Hocking College in Nelsonville. Information on how to register for one or both events can be found here:

“Our region has a solid understanding of the impact the opioid crisis is having on our communities, but there is more to learn about the impact it’s having on families, children and on our child welfare agencies,” said Arian Smedley, director of IPAC.

Ohio is ranked No. 1 in the nation for the number of heroin deaths, said Catherine Hill, director of Athens County Children Services, an agency that served as a key partner in planning these events.

“Our children are the silent victims of this epidemic,” Hill added. “Our workers see this in their cases every day. More children are coming into care at younger ages, and staying longer. We really do need to bring more resources and expertise to the region to address this terrible crisis for our children and families.”

The keynote address will be from Tina Willauer, director of Sobriety Treatment and Recovery Teams (S.T.A.R.T.) of the Kentucky Department for Community Based Services. She will describe best practice principles and strategies that work well for families with co-occurring substance use and child maltreatment. She’ll also discuss her experience with S.T.A.R.T. and an example of the program implemented in a nearby Appalachian community.

Attendees will also hear from Orman Hall, of Ohio HIDTA, and Angela Sausser, of PCSAO, who will describe the impact the opioid epidemic has had on Ohio over time, the response to date and the impact on children services statewide. Crystal Ward Allen, of Casey Family Programs, will discuss the value of Recovery Coaches, the certification process, examples of community teaming, information sharing agreements, supervision and opportunities for financing. Ana Beltran, of Generations United, will share the findings from the recently published report Raising the Children of the Opioid Epidemic: Solutions and Support for Grandfamilies. Lastly, Joe Gay, of Health Recovery Services, will offer a short presentation on the work his agency is doing.

In addition to working with ACCS, IPAC is coordinating with several sponsors, including the 317 Board, Athens County Foundation, Athens County Reentry Task Force and OhioHealth O’Bleness.

“Athens County Children Services is honored to partner with IPAC and other local stakeholders to bring creative ideas and innovative approaches in addressing the opioid epidemic that is impacting children and families in our region and all across the state,” Hill said.

Disciplines from all sectors are encouraged to attend the conference. Continuing education credits for several professionals are pending. Find updates on the organization’s website.  

OhioHealth’s sponsorship will offer scholarships to those wishing to attend the professional conference but are unable to cover the registration fee. Those will be issued on a first-come, first-served basis. Email for more information.

The Town Hall is free and open to the public and will feature many of the same speakers from the professional conference but will not offer continuing education credit. Registration for both events can be found on IPAC’s website.

“Our community partners and sponsoring agencies recognize that by learning collaboratively, we’ll end up working collaboratively,” Smedley added. “That’s in the best interest of our families, and it’s the essence of what IPAC stands for. We are excited for the possibilities that may result from this experience.”