Earlier this month, I was honored to witness more than 3,000 passionate leaders gather at the Gaylord National Hotel & Convention Center to hold important discussions and trainings about how we, as a global community, can increase and improve substance abuse prevention efforts. CADCA’s National Leadership Forum gives coalition members, youth, federal partners, Congressional representatives and more the opportunity to gather in one location and work together as a cohesive unit to learn more about substance abuse so we, as a country, can be better prepared to tackle this critical issue.
The nature of our field is ever-changing and so is CADCA’s Forum. I was excited to see us break a few records this year, such as surpassing 3,000 in attendance, providing our largest exhibit hall to date, and scheduling the most ever Congressional appointments on the Hill. Each coalition brought their unique focus areas and experience to Forum but all were able to learn something new from the 75+ training sessions to take back to their communities. But what struck me most about this Forum was the energy and enthusiasm that every attendee – from adult and youth leaders to speakers and Federal partners – brought to each plenary, training session, and event.
The speakers throughout Forum really brought their A-game. For example, CADCA’s own Chairman and CEO General Arthur T. Dean was fired up and energized attendees about the future of prevention. Dr. Robert DuPont, the founding president of the Institute for Behavior and Health, Inc. brought attendees to their feet when he shared the science and statistics underlining the true importance of preventing substance abuse in young adults and their developing brains. At the Membership Breakfast, Nathaniel Kendall-Taylor, CEO of FrameWorks Institute, created a buzz amongst attendees when he discussed how it’s not only the message that is important but how it’s conveyed and framed that is key in making social impact.
The youth participating in our National Youth Leadership Initiative inspired attendees and sparked standing ovations with their rousing remarks and presentations. While they asked us not to underestimate them or be surprised by their abilities at the National Leadership Awards Luncheon, I couldn’t help but be thoroughly impressed by their leadership, focus and dedication. Not only are these youth leaders individually making the choice to say no to substance use, but they are also an integral part of the prevention movement in their communities.
Capitol Hill Day kicked off with a motivating plenary and rally, which included an engaging panel discussion with several Congressional representatives and inspiring remarks from Sue Thau, CADCA’s public policy consultant and Ananya Pati, a coalition youth leader from Illinois.
From SAMHSA’s Prevention Day Opening Plenary on Monday to our last training session on Thursday, the high energy and high fives never stopped. Thank you to everyone who participated in Forum. Your contagious enthusiasm truly made it an unforgettable event. And I hope to see familiar and new faces at CADCA’s Mid-Year Training Institute in Atlanta, Ga. Let’s keep this momentum going!