I arrived on a foggy San Diego morning to the Innovations in Recovery 2016 Conference, and soon after picking up my name badge and assessing the grand lobby, was taken by how large the conference was (over 1,200 attendees). It represented a diverse and select offering of all types of recovery, from adolescent and adult to nature and Christian-based to traditional 12-step, as well as eating disorder and dual diagnosis treatment centers. As someone that formerly ran a sober living home in San Diego, I soon surmised that this was the place to be if you are entrenched in the recovery community and wanting resources, services, treatment facilities and the like. The smorgasbord was plentiful.
IIR 2016 took place over four days (April 4 -7) and was hosted by Foundations Recovery Network and seeks to highlight leading-edge thinking as they evolve in the behavioral health field and how they relate to substance use disorders. In addition to the numerous and diverse sponsors and exhibitors, the backdrop for the conference was the infamous and picturesque Hotel Del Coronado (AKA the place where Marilyn Monroe filmed Some Like it Hot). That theme seemed to permeate the conference as I was walking through the halls and networking with the best and brightest in the business.
Wandering into the main ballroom, where the booths and exhibitors had set up shop, Charlie Bentz from Malibu Beach House, who had just flown in from Houston in his Villanova gear, roamed around, as did Mike Mosberg of Station 213 Sober Living, Matt Mendoza and Garrett Hall from Addiction Unscripted and reps from the hot new sober app Mober.
Moving on, I saw exhibitors offering affordable legal assistance to billing solutions for behavioral healthcare to digital marketing platforms that focus on rehab centers. I soon stumbled upon My Brian Solutions, an evidence-based brain research company that offers online neuropsychological assessments to measure brain function and create new habits (it checks in on your brain while assessing what it may need more or less of, whether it’s sugar, meditation, shopping, obsessive habits; call it Fitbit for your recovery).
The morning keynote discussion covered the topic of adolescent dual diagnosis treatment, focusing on how difficult it is to treat addicted adolescents who also suffer from ADHD, bipolar disorder, depression and the like. According to John D. Lieberman of Visions, pot is readily accessible to kids today and is constantly being glamorized in pop culture (i.e., Snoop Dog, Miley Cyrus, Rhianna—you get the idea). He mentioned that one form of treatment Visions offers is to have teenagers write a letter about why they like to smoke pot and then read it to the staff and their parents, so they can realize how it sounds.
The afternoon keynote speaker was Dr. Judith Landau, who discussed the importance of family in treating young adults. More than eight million children live with parents that are substance abusers, and they have a much higher rate of becoming addicted. Landau stressed the importance of family-based recovery and how everyone plays a part. She, too, focused on the dangers of pot—and how the legalization of it is playing a huge part in addiction with the younger population and how crime in Colorado has increased as a result.
On Tuesday evening, Foundations Recovery Network CEO Rob Waggener hosted a reception at the hotel, where I found myself speaking with the lovely Heidi Huerta of Heroes in Recovery, an organization dedicated to eliminating the social stigma that is identified with addiction and mental health issues (she told me up about an upcoming 6K Recovery Walk that I’ll be attending near my hometown in Florida). After the reception, I found myself at Il Fornaio at a dinner hosted by the ever-welcoming Keith Fowler, CEO of Dynamic Clinical Labs, who shared with us—a crowd that included Noah Levine of Dharma Punx and Refuge Recovery fame and hot shot interventionist Bob Marier—how Dynamic Labs is looking to become the premier urinalysis drug testing company in Southern California. Post dinner, a small group of us gathered for an impromptu bonfire on the beach (cigar smoking was as chemically enhanced as the group got).
On Wednesday, the ever-charming Dr. Paul Hokemeyer gave a lecture on the unique challenges therapists face in treating the upper echelon of society. Pulling off the nearly impossible task of making the crowd actually have empathy for a segment of the population that typically inspires nothing but envy, Hokemeyer sprinkled his research-heavy talk with confessions of his own struggles in this arena.
My only complaint about the entire conference was that the Hotel Del Coronado may be historic but its wifi reception was spotty indeed. Luckily, I was able to easily find a more important connection—with others determined to help in the recovery plight.
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