For Immediate Release - June 12, 2013

Conference to Address Substance Abuse Among Young Adults in Massachusetts

For pre-registration information, contact Chief Vincent Piro

Vincent.piro@jud.state.ma.us 

Substance abuse treatment, drug trends, and collaborative efforts by law enforcement agencies and the courts to address addiction are among the topics that will be addressed at the 7th Annual HEAT Conference at the Woburn Hilton on Friday, June 21st.

HEAT--Heroin Education Awareness Task Force--is a program through which treatment is offered to young adults, suffering with addiction and lacking the resources to kick their habit. The HEAT Program enrolls young adults, 17-25, in the Woburn District Court jurisdiction. HEAT’s mission is the prevention, education, and treatment of substance abuse. Each year, the conference has drawn approximately 300 service and law enforcement professionals who are looking for ways to address drug abuse among young people in their communities.

“Addiction is a bigger problem than it was seven years ago. It is a daily battle that does not discriminate. Addiction is sweeping through communities at a high fatality rate and it does not appear to be going away. We at HEAT are as committed as ever to addressing this problem,” said Woburn District Court Chief Probation Officer Vincent Piro, who together with Probation Officer II Michael Higgins established HEAT.

This year’s conference will feature three keynote speakers: Hilary Jacobs, Director of the state Bureau of Substance Abuse Services (BSAS); Todd Prough, Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) Special Agent; and Robert Ferullo, Woburn Police Chief. Jacobs will discuss BSAS’s commitment to addressing substance abuse and the availability of treatment. Prough will provide a first-hand perspective on current drug trends. Ferullo will discuss the importance of collaborative efforts involving law enforcement, courts, and the community.

Among the other highlights of this half-day event is a videoclip of Chris Herren, a former NBA player, who suffered with addiction. The video also features the Philadelphia-based HEADS UP Program which assists young people with substance abuse issues. Herren, who served as the HEAT Conference 2012 keynote speaker, chronicled his struggles in his memoir, “Basketball Junkie.” His story was also featured in the ESPN documentary “Unguarded.”

Since its inception, the HEAT Program has assisted more than 2,000 young men and women in finding detoxification beds and substance abuse treatment. Piro and Higgins launched the HEAT Program following a spate of heroin overdoses among Woburn teenagers. Piro and Higgins said they could not ignore the increase in young people with drug addictions who were frequently coming before the court.

“They had been ‘three-star athletes from good families’ before becoming addicted to heroin. Piro said the program is designed to target the younger addict “who would not truly benefit from treatment in a general population setting occupied by veteran drug addicts,” Piro said.

Piro and Higgins said the HEAT Program has been an invaluable resource in the education of parents, educators, human service professionals, and law enforcement on the subject of addiction.

HEAT Program participants are placed in a three to seven day detoxification program which is located in a controlled environment where other “less seasoned” addicts are sent, followed by a 30-day HEAT stabilization program where the young addicts receive counseling and drug treatment. Upon completion of the HEAT 30-day stabilization program, clients are referred to residential treatment or intensive outpatient services.

There is also an educational component to HEAT where parents learn about the signs of heroin abuse and are introduced to community resources to help their children

Co-sponsors of the HEAT Conference include local law enforcement agencies, the Institute for Health and Recovery, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Bureau of Substance Abuse Services and AdCare Educational Institute, Inc.

Pre-registration is required. To pre-register for this free conference, click on the link at the top of the page. Probation Officers can receive training credits for attending.