National speaker presents at SLV symposium

ALAMOSA — The 2018 Neonatal Substance Exposure Awareness Symposium was held on Thursday, August 9th and Friday August 10th at the SLV Behavioral Health Center in Alamosa.

The event was hosted by the San Luis Valley Neonatal Substance Exposure Task Force, Valley-Wide Health Systems and San Luis Valley Health.

Many topics were presented including the “Colorado Opiate State Targeted Response Program,” “Opioid Use in Pregnancy,” and finally a panel discussion and question and answer time concluded both sessions. In addition, there was a great deal of representation from many agencies across the Valley.

The keynote speaker for the event was Dr. Larry Burd who is a professor for the Department of Pediatrics at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and the director of the North Dakota Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Center and FAS Clinic. Burd has done extensive work on evaluations and the development of intervention programs for approximately 16,000 children that have a developmental disorder. Dr. Burd has done research in 41 countries along with 34 tribal nations and he has had over 220 published papers on child development and behavior along with an online clinic website and handbooks for teachers and parents.

The topics that Dr. Burd presented on at the symposium included “Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD): Why can’t we see it?’ as well as “Care Implications for Various Service Systems.” The first presentation gave many details about the signs and symptoms of FASD and what pediatricians and mental health providers should be aware of as well as intervention strategies. A key point that was made is that FASD has lifelong effects for someone who may have it and that there are many adverse effects as a result.

Other presenters included Jennifer Wenzell, DO of Southern Colorado Maternal Fetal Medicine, Mikaila Pence, MD of San Luis Valley Health, Jessica Triplett, BS CAC II, and  Linda Martin LPC, LAC of the Colorado Opiate Targeted Response Program and Jillian Adams, MSW, Substance Exposed Program Manager for Illuminate Colorado. Many updates were given from numerous programs across the state which gave participants the opportunity to gather a large amount of useful information in a relatively short amount of time along with the opportunity for networking.

There were many questions fielded by Thursday’s panel. Those who sat on the panel included Dr. Burd, Mary Lambert, BA, ECP, VI SLV Community Connections Grant Coordinator, Barbara Troy, MD of Valley Wide Health, Charlotte Ledonne RN, LPC of San Luis Valley Health Education and Kaeden John’s, attorney. The overall theme of the discussion briefly focused on how to address the issue of recurrent addicts and the options for those who are incarcerated.

Another issue that Ledonne pointed out is that there is another “piece” surrounding the opioid issue which is a support system and a safe place for those who are in the process of treatment.

Dr. Troy also encouraged participants to engage in their communities and get them involved so they can move forward with addressing addiction more effectively. It was also noted that those struggling with addiction are often using a combination of drugs including alcohol.

The consensus seemed to be that this is an issue that has numerous parts and challenges. It was also noted that there is somewhat of a social stigma for those who do have an addiction and thus it can make it harder for them to get the necessary assistance to find a way out of their situation.

There was agreement that there is a need for a wider range of solutions to fight this issue.