Summit to educate state legislators on mental health issues

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Scott Teitelbaum, M.D., the medical director of the Florida Recovery Center and a University of Florida associate professor of psychiatry and pediatrics, will speak about the university’s advancements in addiction medicine at the first Mental Health and Substance Abuse Summit in Tallahassee on Wednesday, Feb. 15.

The summit will introduce legislators, state executives, medical providers and the media to the medical dynamics of mental illness and substance abuse. A special focus will be on efforts to convert scientific discoveries into practical treatments.

“UF is a leader in the field of addiction medicine,” said Teitelbaum, the clinical chief of the addiction medicine division in the department of psychiatry at the UF College of Medicine. “We are a leader in not only treatment, but education and research as well, so I’m going to review the different aspects of what we’re doing in those three areas.”

The summit will focus on how good mental health is essential to good physical health and how behavioral health problems can be dealt with as successfully as physical ailments.

Dr. David Shern, Ph.D., president and CEO of Mental Health America, will introduce the guest speakers, which include Teitelbaum, Charles B. Nemeroff, M.D., Ph.D., from the University of Miami, and Gail P. Hutchings, M.P.A., president and CEO of the Behavioral Health Policy Collaborative.

Adolescent and adult substance abuse and addiction is the nation’s No. 1 unmet health problem, said Mark Gold, M.D., chairman of the UF College of Medicine department of psychiatry.

“Florida, like the rest of the U.S., is impacted by tobacco, alcohol, drug and prescription medication abuse and dependence, major contributors to both premature deaths and diseases,” Gold said. “In addition, they cause secondhand and thirdhand effects on the next generation.”

However, early identification and treatment are both safe and effective, Gold said.

The summit will be held from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Florida State Conference Center, The Florida Alcohol and Drug Abuse Association, Florida Council for Community Mental Health, Florida Partners in Crisis, Florida Psychiatric Society, Disabilities Rights Florida and the National Alliance on Mental Illness Florida are sponsoring the conference.