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|May 15, 2012
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Former NBA Player Chris Herren to Address HEAT Conference
For pre-registration information, contact Chief Vincent Piro
Intensive, long-term substance abuse treatment for his drug addiction is what placed Chris Herren, a former NBA player, back on the road to recovery. Herren has developed a foundation and numerous programs to ensure that others—particularly young adults-- have the same chance. The former Celtics star and point guard will serve as keynote speaker at the 6th annual HEAT Conference at the Woburn Hilton on Friday, June 1st. Pre-registration is required by Monday, May 28th.
“Addiction is an illness and there are plenty of people who are sick. I think it is important to get the message out about recovery because recovery is the key to restoring lives,”said Herren whose story is chronicled in the ESPN documentary “Unguarded” and his memoir: “Basketball Junkie.”
HEAT (Heroin Education Awareness Task Force) is a program that was established by Woburn District Court Chief Probation Officer Vincent Piro and Probation Officer II
Michael Higgins to offer treatment to teens suffering with drug addiction and lacking resources to kick their habit. The conference typically draws 300 human services and law enforcement professionals who are looking for ways to address drug abuse among young people in their communities.
“I've had many law enforcement officers say to me that in the past they had little empathy for addicts but after hearing my story, they began seeing it as an illness that requires medical treatment,” said Herren who spent 11 months receiving in-patient care to treat his addiction.
“Taking it one day at a time has kept me sober,” he said.
Herren established The Herren Project which assists families and individuals who are affected by and are suffering with addiction. More recently, he launched an anti-substance abuse initiative called “Project Purple” which promotes making good choices and drug and alcohol-free living among youth.
In addition to Herren's address, the day's highlights will include talks by Onondaga County (New York state) Deputy Sheriff Shane Levine who will discuss trends and current issues regarding substance abuse awareness, education and treatment. Maggie Giles, Director of Youth & Young Adult Services at the Institute for Health and Recovery in Cambridge will also address the audience. Giles and her staff manage HEAT intakes, referrals, and other long-term treatment services.
Following a spate of heroin overdoses among Woburn teenagers, Piro and Higgins formed the HEAT Program. Since its inception, the HEAT Program has assisted more than 1,500 young men and women, ages 17 to 25, in finding detox beds and substance abuse treatment. According to Piro and Higgins, young people with drug addictions 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.
He added, “We've educated 1,000's of people through the HEAT Program—from parents to educators, to human services professionals to those in law enforcement. Education leads to prevention, and harm reduction. Knowledge is power when it comes to the disease of addiction.”
Higgins said, “Our work is still not done. We will continue to reach as many people as we can.”
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. In addition-- for the past three years-- the HEAT Program has sponsored a “Prescription Take-Back.” This year, HEAT Program volunteers collected six huge boxes of needles, prescription drugs, and cough syrup.
Co-sponsors of the HEAT Conference include local law enforcement agencies, the Institute for Health and Recovery (IHR) in Cambridge, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, the Bureau of Substance Abuse Services & AdCare Educational Institute, Inc.
To pre-register for this free conference, click on the link at the top of the page. To contact Chief Probation Officer Piro, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org