Why I’m Excited About the From Research to Recovery Town Hall

The From Research to Recovery Town Hall is April 18th and 19th at Virginia Commonwealth University. To get your tickets today, visit the Town Hall website.

Event sponsors include the College Behavioral and Emotional Health Institute, the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services, VCU Rehabilitation Counseling, Origins Behavioral Healthcare, St. Christopher’s Addiction Wellness, the Virginia Center for Addiction Medicine, The Family Counseling Center for Recovery, The Farley Center, Summit Behavioral Health, River City Counseling, Beacon Tree Foundation, The Chris Atwood Foundation and Life of Purpose.

We are just 3 short weeks away from our second COBE Town Hall, and I am a mix of nerves and excitement. Will people show up to the party? Will the speakers bring their A game? Will the food arrive on time? Will we run out of coffee? There is a lot to worry about when you’re hosting an event like this, but here is why I’m excited.

On April 18th and 19th, we will host a group of brilliant speakers at VCU who will present on a range of issues impacting young people’s health. While I almost prefaced “health” with behavioral and emotional health, if we pay attention to what is killing our young people, it is primarily substance misuse and mental health related, not other diseases. When it comes to health problems in 15-24 year olds and even 25-34 year olds, “behavioral and emotional health” should be our primary focus area. Yet, that is not the reality we have built.

We have built school, medical, criminal justice and family systems that have set these crucial health issues to the side, paying them lip service at best. Less than 10% of school administrators use evidence based prevention in their schools. Our medical system has divided out substance use and mental health from the rest of medicine, relying primarily on external systems for services. Our criminal justice system has largely failed to provide true rehabilitation to those who are incarcerated. In many families, we have failed to create environments where we have been able to discuss mental health and substance use challenges.

These are challenges that touch every part of our society, and too often we have taken far too narrow a lens in viewing and addressing these health issues. This conference is meant to be a zoom out on these challenges, so that we can tackle the issues as a community.

At COBE, we believe that the promotion of wellbeing requires us to both promote mental health and treat substance use disorders and mental health challenges with compassionate, evidence based care. We agree strongly with researchers who remind us that the promotion of mental health is not simply the absence of mental illness. Rather, the promotion of mental health must also encompass emotional, psychological, and social well-being.  

We have the ambitious goal of gathering a diverse audience that includes students, parents, professionals and faculty to hear a variety of perspectives that represent everything from lived experience, to professional practice, and basic research.

Additionally, our speakers represent a range of different lenses, from researching recovery, to working within the criminal justice system, to preventing violence in inner city schools, to promoting mindfulness and changing drug policy. While these are not often groups and voices that gather under the same roof, the health challenges affecting our young people, including the opiate epidemic, demand that each of us exit our silos and look for collaborative solutions for both preventing these challenges and treating them effectively when they occur.

We look forward to seeing you on the 18th,

Tom Bannard
Administrative Director, COBE