Two-day SSU symposium trains clinicians in addiction diagnosis and treatment

 

 

David Selden, a clinical social worker and therapist, has been involved with the management and provision of behavioral health services for over 35 years as a clinician, administrator, executive level manager and consultant.

 

He is the Director of Leahy Health System’s Cape Ann Adult Behavioral Learning Center in Salem and teaches part-time at Salem State University in the Psychology Department.

 

He also has a private practice with a specialty in working with teens, adults and their families who are experiencing difficulties from substance use and related mood disorders. He holds both ACSW and LICSW degrees and has lived on the North Shore for over 30 years.

 

In other words, he is no stranger to mental health and addiction issues on the North Shore. And Selden is worried.

 

“50-60% of our clients have substance use and addictive issues. We are primarily a mental health and not a specialty substance use treatment facility. This is typical for most mental health facilities, and why it is so important the staff are cross-trained in both the mental health and addiction treatments,” he said.

 

Although more and more clients with substance abuse and addiction disorders seek help initially from psychotherapists, local graduate schools do not include this topic in their curricula, he explained.

 

“Local programs are graduating new clinicians who become therapists, case managers, program directors and supervisors with no education or experience in this specialty. This is resulting in misdiagnoses, inadequate treatment and programs unprepared to provide necessary services,” the Marblehead resident said.

 

To rectify this deficiency, he has been working with administrators at Salem State University to develop training programs and curricula that may lead toward a specialty graduate program in the area of substance abuse and addiction. That long-range project has the support of local agency executives, who see a major need for this type of workforce training.

 

In the meantime, however, he is focused on the more immediate need to fill the gaping hole in practicing clinicians’ and graduate students’ training. To that end, he has spearheaded and organized a two-day symposium titled, “Substance Use and Addictive Disorders: Energizing the Community to Fight Back.”

 

The intensive and highly interactive conference will integrate elements of best practice treatment models, case studies and virtual team practice sessions. The two-day workshop runs Friday, June 16 and Saturday, June 17 from 8:30 am – 4:30 pm with 12 CEUs available for professionals who attend both days.

 

Selden worked with Dr. Carol Bonner, Associate Dean of SSU School of Social Work and Dr. Jeanne Corcoran, Interim Dean of the College and Health and Human Services. The symposium is supported by the School of Social Work and will take place at SSU’s Ellison Campus Center.

 

Between 2000 and 2016, opioid-related deaths have dramatically increased in Massachusetts, according to The Official Website of the Executive Office of Health and Human Services. For example, total statewide deaths increased by more than five-fold, from 379 to 2,069.

 

Essex county increased from 51 to 281 deaths; Salem from 5 to 19 deaths; Gloucester from 2 to 9 deaths; Swampscott from 0 to 4 deaths; and Marblehead from 3 to 4 deaths. (For more information, visit

mass.gov/eohhs/gov/departments/dph/stop-addiction/current-statistics.html.)

 

Selden thinks the symposium is both well timed and relevant.

 

Allison Bauer, who holds degrees in law and social work and is the Director of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s Bureau of Substance Abuse Services, will open the Friday, June 16 with a keynote address.

 

The rest of the day is devoted to topics in two areas: basic clinical (“What is Addiction?”; “Assessment and Diagnosis”; “Stages of Change/Motivational Enhancement Therapy”) and supervision/management (“State of the Treatment System”; “Self-Help 101”; “Alternative Programming”).

 

Day Two deals with treatment, post-recovery and relapse issues. Participants will spend the afternoon in virtual treatment teams that will be assigned case studies for practice in assessment and treatment planning.

 

Selden has assembled a stellar panel with a variety of degrees and professions, from business executives to educators to nurses and treatment program specialists. He has promoted the symposium through e-mail, social media and word of mouth via various professional networks.

 

Colleague feedback has been “overwhelmingly positive. Everyone I speak to agrees this is a much-needed program. The faculty all readily stepped up to volunteer their time for the symposium,” he said.

 

With the opioid addiction crisis and its human toll frequently at the forefront of local, state and national news, Selden stresses that the symposium is neither limited to nor geared exclusively for professionals in addiction treatment or related fields.

 

“The audience is anyone interested in working with people with substance use and addictive disorders,” he said, including those whose friends or loved ones may be so afflicted.

 

To register, go to substanceabuse17.eventbrite.com.

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Reality Fair Provides Reality Check

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Andrew Wulf, SHS Assistant Principal for Teaching and Learning, SHS seniors Xhoralgo Gjinaj and Vistor Acosta, and Bryan Boppert, SSU AssociateDirector of the Student Navigation Center, pose with the Reality Check wheel of fortune. PHOTO: Shelley A. Sackett

 

Salem High School senior Daniele Alejandro hoped the financial Salem High School Reality Fair, a simulation of the financial challenges adults face, would show him how to be financially stable. After attending last Wednesday’s event, he came away with a better idea of how many obstacles he will face to achieve that goal.

 

“I was surprised at the cost of housing and how expensive it was. We had three people sharing an apartment and it was still difficult to pay for utilities,” he said.

 

Jaileny Pimentel, whose favorite subjects are calculus and statistics and who is interested in a career in business, looked forward to learning “tricks on how to save money.” Some students, like Victor Acosta, already pay all their personal bills, such as food and cell phone. Acosta recognizes he needs to learn to save on a regular basis and hoped the fair would teach him how to better manage money so he could afford to own a car.

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SHS seniors Jaileny Pimental (left) and Daniele Alejandro about to enter the Insurance and Investments booth.

 

Other students, like Xhoralgo Gjinaj, simply welcomed the opportunity to be out of the classroom on a beautiful May day. He anticipated the fair being “fun, interesting and something new.”

 

Since 2015, Salem Public Schools has run the SHS Reality Fair, providing graduating seniors with the opportunity to experience an up close and personal snapshot of what lies ahead of them as financially independent adults. The fair also supplies them with some of the tools they will need to tackle the many obstacles they will encounter along the way.

 

“We are very excited to be partnering with Salem State University (SSU), Salem Five Bank and Cabot Wealth Management. Everyone is committed to making sure our seniors leave high school understanding how to manage money,” said Andrew Wulf, Assistant Principal for Teaching and Learning at Salem High School.

 

The Reality Fair planning team included Mikki Willson from Cabot Wealth Management; Ginny Leblanc, who teaches at Salem High School and handled most of the event coordination; and Adria Leach and Bryan Boppert from SSU. Bertolon School of Business at Salem State University hosted the event.

 

Each student received an individualized packet upon arrival with their name, occupation, and a summary of their hypothetical financial life at age 25, including net income after all taxes are deducted from their salary. Armed with that figure, they visited 16 booths to fill in the blanks on how to survive on that amount of money while also managing student loan debt and saving some money every month. Adult volunteers from the business, non-profit and public sectors staffed the booths, located in classrooms throughout the building.

 

At the end of the three-and-one-half hour fair, each student came away with a realistic monthly budget and the skills necessary to build one for themselves in the future.

 

 

Among the booths were: Career Counseling, Charity, Clothing, Credit/Lending, Credit Counseling, Education, Food, Luxury, Furniture, Housing, Insurance, Investment, Retirement, Savings and Transportation. In the Reality Check booth, a giant wheel similar to the “Wheel of Fortune” greeted visitors. Instead of winning vowels, however, a spin of this wheel yielded those little twists and turns life can unpredictably throw at you. Landing on green meant unexpected gains; red signified a loss.

 

For example, the green slots included a $100 birthday present from your parents or a part time job that yielded $250 a month. Red could mean an $875 expense to attend a wedding or $500 to replace a broken smartphone.

 

“It was really eye opening to see how the real world works,” said Alejandro, who hopes to earn an R.N. degree after graduation.

 

Bryan Boppert, Associate Director of the Student Navigation Center at SSU, greeted each student when they entered the lobby with a handshake and a smile. This was his first year of official involvement in the Reality Fair, but he was aware of it last year.

 

“Students took away the real world benefit of learning that budgeting is a skill learned through practice that requires discipline to maintain. Some students wanted fancy cars and vacations, but in the end they wound up broke,” he said, adding that the real benefit of the Reality Fair is that students can fail in a simulated way instead of trying it in the real world where they could lose their car or hurt their credit score.

 

His office, which counsels SSU students on borrowing responsibly, paying bills on time and managing the complex world of college, would love to replicate the Salem High School Reality Fair for their own students. “I would go so far as to say that the state should mandate financial literacy for all students because it has such a positive effect,” Boppert said.

 

Wulf has received positive feedback from the volunteers and students, who mentioned that the fair gave them a nice dose of reality regarding the complexities of managing their money. He believes that having volunteers from different companies and organizations was key to making the experience more authentic for the students.

 

“We have yet to hear from a student that the fair was not worthwhile,” he said with pride.

Former Czech Spy Tells It Like It Was

SSU panelists warn about dangers of “fake news”

Shelley A. Sackett

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Peggy Dillon, SSU Associate Professor and panel moderator, listens as Dr. Martin-Bittman talks about his years as a Czech spy.

 

What do a former Czech spy who served as a post-war intelligence officer specializing in disinformation for the Czech Intelligence Service and Earth Day have in common? According to Peggy Dillon, Associate Professor of Communications at Salem State University and member of the SSU Earth Day Committee, everything.

 

“This year’s Earth Day theme on campus is ‘It’s Your World, It’s Your Future: Get Involved,’” she said. “I thought a panel about media literacy — and fake news and disinformation in particular — would be a timely topic for media consumers in general, as well as for environmentalists.”

 

Dillon had agreed to create and moderate a panel about media literacy as part of SSU’s 2017 Earth Days events. The panelists would examine how disinformation and fake news have permeated the media landscape and discuss media-literacy strategies for telling the difference between truth and fiction in the news.

 

She titled the panel, “How to Recognize Disinformation and Fake News: Be a Media-Literate Advocate for your Cause” and invited SSU Communications professors Jane Regan and Cindy Vincent to participate. Regan, a lecturer in Multimedia Journalism who is also an investigative journalist, would address “both-siderism” and mainstream vs. “alternative” media coverage, particularly of environmental topics. Assistant professor Vincent would discuss filter bubbles, media distractions and the ability to discern credible sources.

 

But she still wanted a third panelist to round out the discussion.

 

As part of her “newly ramped-up political activism” following the 2016 elections, Dillon started attending meetings at the Rockport Unitarian Universalist Church of like-minded concerned citizens. There she heard about Lawrence Martin-Bittman, a Rockport resident whom a member knew from church.

 

Né Ladislav Bittman in 1931 in Prague, Martin-Bittman defected to the United States in 1968 after the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. Prior to that, he was an expert in creating and disseminating Soviet propagandistic disinformation, spreading anonymously and deliberately distorted information to deceive and manipulate public opinion.

 

“I met Dr. Martin-Bittman for lunch and heard his life story, and immediately invited him to join the panel. He agreed,” Dillon said. After all, who better to address the topic of fake news and disinformation than one who not only could talk the talk, but had also — literally — walked the walk?

 

And for nearly thirty minutes on Tuesday, over 30 students, faculty members and visitors were captivated by the 86-year-old ex-spy’s stories about how he came to be recruited by the Czech Secret Service and the kinds of disinformation campaigns he engaged in.

 

“It’s nice to be back again on academic soil,” the former Boston University professor and author said.

 

As a teenaged student of international law at Charles University in Prague, Martin-Bittman anticipated a career as a diplomat. Instead, upon graduation, he and 37 of his 42 fellow classmates were “invited” to the Central Committee of the Communist Party headquarters where they were told they would work in the Czech Intelligence Service. “I didn’t even know Czechoslovakia had an intelligence service,” he said.

 

Overnight, he became a spy.

 

Over the course of 14 years as an operative, he had 30 names and supervised hundreds of other agents, eventually becoming deputy commander of the disinformation department, leaking carefully constructed false messages to reporters in order to influence people and politicians.

 

In 1968, when the Soviet invasion Czechoslovakia effectively ended the Prague Spring and his country’s brief attempt to enact democratic reforms, Martin-Bittman realized he had spent the last14 years of his life “basically working for the Russians.” He decided to quit and defected to the United States later that year.

 

He was tried in absentia in a military court in Czechoslovakia, which convicted him of treason. “I was treated as a defector and hunted for decades,” he said. One of his students at Boston University was even recruited to spy on him, he discovered later to his dismay. His death sentence was recently revoked. “I never thought the Communist regime would collapse in my lifetime,” he said.

 

No stranger to the concept of “fake news”, Martin-Bittman is alarmed by the current state of global media with reports of cyber warfare, information weaponization and information wars. “We live in a world of deception and manipulation,” he warned.

 

“For the United States or any other democratic country with a free press, spreading propagandistic information might be a dangerous, self-destructive weapon, a ticking time bomb that can explode in the perpetrator’s backyard,” he continued.

 

He is quite concerned about the Russian doctrine of information warfare and its implications in the U.S. presidential election campaign of 2016, which he feels demonstrated the importance of developing new defenses in protecting the American democratic system. “Misinformation is information that is bad, wrong or mistaken. Disinformation is deliberate and malicious,” he said.

 

Dillon believes journalists and media educators have an important role to play right now in helping the public understand the difference between fact and fiction in their media diet, and she hopes people came away from the panel discussion with a heightened awareness about the prevalence of false or distorted information in our media diet. Martin-Bittman goes one step further.

 

“People must realize that there is an urgent need to educate the new generation of journalists about the new information environment and the dangers of disinformation,” he said. “The best protection against any kind of propaganda is strong analytical press capable of professional analysis of all suspicious information, wherever it comes from.”