By Brandon HENSLEY
The importance of drug awareness and drug treatment isn’t just for jr. highers and high schoolers, as evidenced by the Glendale College drug and alcohol addiction summit held on Sept. 29.
The second annual summit, titled “Addiction Summit 2010: Counselors, Clinicians and Community,” took place in the J.W. Smith Student Center on campus from 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.
The summit was held, “Simply to bring awareness [to] addiction, talk about the elephant in the room,” said pharmacology professor Orlando Rivera. “That’s something nobody really wants to talk about in terms of … we have addiction, we have issues going on, let’s talk about it, and let’s really open up a dialogue.”
The keynote speaker was Renee Zito, a director of the Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs for the state. She delivered her speech in the auditorium, and addressed drug treatment and healthcare reform.
Glendale Mayor Ara Najarian was also scheduled to speak, but instead made only a brief appearance.
Back at the student center, the room was divided into three sections for other speakers including Dr. Joy Chudzynski, a licensed clinical psychologist, and Father Jack Kearney, a board member of California Association for Alcohol and Drug Educators.
Outside the center, there were drinks and a gourmet dinner, both complimentary.
Rivera, who coordinated the event, said last year surveys were sent out to those who attended and the responses came back in the form of a 97% approval rating. This year, he said, “It went very, very well.”
Ben Salazar, director of the drug and alcohol studies program at GCC, was excited for Zito’s address.
“This is a state appointed official that came in, flew in for this event.” Salazar continued: “She’s a great proponent of treatment and recovery for people who are chemically dependent.”
Salazar said a main concern for him is the lack of treatment money available for people addicted to substances.
“Either people have the money and they can go into treatment or they don’t have the money and they can go into county facilities which are usually free. But the middle people, there’s nothing there for them.”
Salazar also mentioned the success of the counseling program on campus, and talked about less desirable ways to obtain a counseling certificate, including online. Salazar called that path “ridiculous.”
Heading into the November mid-term elections, the issue of drugs seems to be a hot topic in the Glendale and Crescenta Valley areas. Last month, Glendale police chief Ron DePompa and his North Area Command held a Town Hall meeting at Verdugo Hills Hospital to showcase how today’s youth, particularly those in high school, use certain drug paraphernalia and the other ways they obtain the drugs. DePompa also railed against Proposition 19, which would legalize certain amounts of marijuana to those over 21.
DePompa was scheduled to attend the GCC summit, but did not make an appearance.