Substance abuse: ‘It’s Everybody’s Business’

“We have to stop treating addiction as a moral failing, and start seeing it for what it is – a chronic disease that must be treated with urgency and compassion.”

These words by former U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murphy sum up the goal of the Substance Abuse: It’s Everybody’s Business conference held May 16 at the Veninga Theater, UW Center for Civic Engagement, in Wausau.

More than 300 attendees from wide-ranging backgrounds and professional disciplines convened for the one-day conference, presented by WIPPS and North Central Health Foundation.

The conference also brought together 16 speakers whose expertise ran the gamut from health care leaders and substance abuse providers to community action advocates, educators and mental health experts. Several speakers shared personal experiences with substance abuse.

“We were pleased to not only have presenters who are regional experts in the field, but nationally-recognized authorities,” said Dr. Corrie Norrbom, WIPPS health policy fellow and a chief organizer for the event. The keynote on understanding addiction was delivered by Dr. Marvin Seppala, chief medical officer at Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation; and Regina LaBelle, former chief of staff and senior policy adviser to the director of the White House office of National Drug Control Policy, spoke on building a community response to the epidemic.

“We hope the conference truly helped participants think a bit differently about addiction, and that they were inspired to ponder the role that they or their organization may be able to play in addressing the crisis,” Norrbom said. We encourage everyone to get involved and share your ideas. Send suggestions for future conferences to

Click here free post-conference resources

For the past 10 years, WIPPS has been succeeding in its mission to spur civic engagement through public scholarship, nonpartisan public dialogue, student learning and service, and community building initiatives.

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