This year we’ve organized two concurrent session blocks, each with multiple panel conversations; attendees can choose one conversation from each block.

Session Block A


Panel 1
When Do We Call Crisis?  

Addressing the origins of the opioid epidemic within the broader context of America’s “War on Drugs.” Looking at the ways race, class and location interact with policy, enforcement, media coverage and treatment.



Panel 2
The Interdependence of Dependence

Looking at the ways that opioid addiction extends far beyond the addict, from the way communities avoid discussions about isolation, to the options medical professionals choose to treat pain, and the way substance abuse impacts the families and friends of those using.



Session Block B


Panel 3
The Realities of Reentry

Covering the practical and political aspects of how communities reintegrate people in recovery, including employment, housing, the co-occurrence of mental illness and the unintended consequences of the prescription pendulum swinging away from opioids.



Panel 4
Special Focus: Healthcare Professionals

Addressing responsibilities and concerns specific to the medical community. Includes the changing profile of addicts versus persistent stigmas, burnout among healthcare professionals, awareness of new options in training for managing addiction, and developing new vocabulary and deeper empathy for patients struggling with substance abuse.


(in alphabetical order)

Dr. Ryan M Brewer

Associate Professor of Finance at Indiana University – Columbus

Panel 1 – When Do We Call Crisis?

Dr. Brewer is an Associate Professor of Finance at Indiana University – Columbus, where he has taught undergraduate and graduate courses in Corporate Finance, Investments and Derivatives since 2009.  On several occasions spanning more than fifteen years, Brewer has testified as a valuation expert in the U.S. Federal and Indiana State court systems. Prior to entering professional school, Brewer worked for five years as a Risk Manager for a Fortune 50 Corporation in Michigan and Indiana, ultimately attaining worldwide responsibilities for the development of policy compliance programs.

Brewer’s work on valuation, economic damages, economic impact, and forecasting has been published in peer reviewed Academic journals on twenty-two occasions – including four articles on the economic damages of opioid misuse.  Brewer’s work on valuation has been highlighted in the Wall Street Journal on twelve occasions, and has been showcased in the Chicago Tribune, the Chronicles of Higher Education, CNN, MSN, and MSNBC.  His work has also been published in the Indianapolis Business Journal, the St. Louis Business Journal, Columbus Ohio Business First, the Dallas Business Journal, the Tampa Bay Business Journal, and the Denver Business Journal, among others throughout the U.S.

The United States has been mired in an opioid misuse crisis since the turn of the 21st century, stemming from prescription medications made available for consumption.  Dr. Brewer’s recent project, “Economic Damages of Opioid Misuse,” details the scope of the crisis in terms of economic damages to geographic regions, focusing on an accounting of past, present, and future cost categories.  An estimate of damages is provided to date for the US, as well as discussion of why it happened and what can be done to improve the situation.

Brewer earned the IUPUC campus center Outstanding Full-time faculty Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activity Award for 2018.  Brewer earned the Annual IU MBA–Columbus Outstanding MBA Faculty Award on four (4) occasions, in 2012, 2014, 2015, and 2016.

Brewer holds Ph.D. and M.B.A. degrees from Indiana University Bloomington, having earned a baccalaureate education in health science and engineering from Purdue University.   

Sgt. Baron Brown

Community Engagement and Public Information Officer, Ferndale Police Department

Panel 1 – When Do We Call Crisis?

Sergeant Baron Brown is the Community Engagement and Public Information Officer for the Ferndale Police Department. The Detroit-area force is a part of Hope Not Handcuffs, an initiative that allows anyone struggling with substance abuse to go without fear of arrest to a participating police department, which will work to place the person in a recovery program. Hope Not Handcuffs kicked off in February 2017 with police departments across five counties taking part.

Sgt. Brown was recently recognized as a 2018 Diversity Champion through the local Race Relations and Diversity Task Force.

Dr. Elaine Carey

Dean of College of Humanities, Social Science, Education at Purdue University Northwest

Panel 1 – When Do We Call Crisis?

Elaine Carey is Professor of History and Dean of the College of Humanities, Education, and Social Science at Purdue University Northwest.  She is the author of Plaza of Sacrifices: Gender, Power, and Terror in 1968 Mexico (2005) and the award-winning Women Drug Traffickers: Mules, Bosses, and Organized Crime (2014).  She is also co-editor with Andrae Marak of Smugglers, Brothels, and Twine: Transnational Flows of Contraband and Vice in North America (2011) and the editor/author of the textbook Protests in the Streets: 1968 Across the Globe (2016).  As a historian who researches crime and human rights, she has served as an expert witness in courts across the United States, and she has consulted for radio, film, television, archives, libraries, and museums.

From 2013-2016, she was the Vice President for the Teaching Division of the American Historical Association (AHA). Currently, she is a co-principle investigator on the NHPRC funded project, “Family, Immigration, and History: Grade 10 Citizen Archivists in the Digital Age,” a collaboration with the New York City Department of Education’s Department of Social Studies, the Queens Public Library, the Queens Memory Project, and St. John’s University.  Formerly, Carey served as the chair of the History Department at SJU.

Paula Dranger, MSW, LCSW, MAC

Assistant Director for SAAFE Office at Valparaiso University

Panel 3 – The Realities of Reentry

Paula Dranger, assistant director for the SAAFE Office, received her MSW from Loyola University and has been with SAAFE since 1995. Paula has taught at Valparaiso University’s School of Social Work as well as the sociology department. She is nationally certified and a licensed clinical social worker in the state of Indiana. Dranger is also a Certified Mediator, a Substance Abuse Professional, and a Certified Program Planner.


Director of Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) at Porter-Starke Services, Inc

Panel 4 – Special Focus: Healthcare Professionals

Megan oversees PSS Recovery Center, which is the local Opioid Treatment Program for Porter and surrounding counties.  She also manages a federal grant awarded to PSS for increasing MAT capacity in both Porter and Starke counties.  Megan has been involved at the clinical and administrative levels in residential, outpatient, community mental health, and corrections environments.  Megan is humbled to have been nominated for the Indiana Addiction Professional of the Year Award in 2017.  She is an active participant of regional and State coalitions, advocating for education and stigma reduction, as well as shaping policy related to substance use disorder treatment.

Claudia Garcia, RN

Co-Founder, Parkdale Center for Professionals

Panel 4 – Special Focus: Healthcare Professionals

Claudia has more than fifteen years of direct patient care experience as well as managerial and recruitment experience. She has focused much of her career in research and development of programs, policies, and procedures to improve patient outcome and maintain employer compliance.

Claudia obtained her MBA degree, graduating with honors, with a focus on health care administration, specializing in assistance of the health care professionals in need. She served as an appointed member of the Indiana Office of the Attorney General’s Prescription Drug Task Force from 2012-2017 and is currently the Executive Director of the Indiana Professionals Recovery Program for nurses and pharmacists.  In addition, she is a lead investigator in Parkdale’s H.E.L.P (Health Experts in Loss Prevention) program, a consultative program developed to assist hospitals in the prevention, identification, and management of the impaired health care provider.

Claudia has firsthand knowledge of addiction and recovery through the eyes of a non-addicted loved one and family member. Her training as a certified addiction drug and alcohol counselor (CADAC II), Registered Nurse, and licensed addiction counselor (LAC) along with her very personal and intimate knowledge of the situational circumstances the family members often experience has helped forge one the most seamless, comprehensive, and resourceful family programs in the country.

Her unique skill set now helps professionals and their families, as the individual networks through the myriad considerations, obstacles, and potential consequences associated with workplace addiction at the facility she helped found, Parkdale Center for Professionals.

Rodrigo Garcia, APN, MSN, CRNA, MBA

Co-Founder and CEO of Parkdale Center for Professionals

Panel 4 – Special Focus: Healthcare Professionals

Rodrigo Garcia is the Co-Founder and CEO of Parkdale Center for Professionals, a dual diagnosis substance abuse treatment facility specializing in the management of the impaired health care provider. He has been a direct care provider in the healthcare field for more than 20 years. He has experience in emergency services in a level one trauma center, as an intensive care unit manager, in surgical services, and in anesthesia as a chief nurse anesthetist (CRNA) of a teaching hospital.

Rodrigo is currently the compliance director for the Indiana Professionals Recovery Program (IPRP)for nurses and pharmacists and is an appointed delegate to the National Safety Council. In addition, he has held multiple faculty positions at various universities including Evanston Northwestern School of Anesthesia, Ivy Technical College – Nursing Department, and also served as a clinical instructor for the Valparaiso University School of Nursing. He currently serves as the Director of Parkdale’s H.E.L.P (Health Experts in Loss Prevention) program, a consultative program developed to assist hospitals in the prevention, identification, and management of the impaired health care provider.

Personally, he has emerged successfully from a dangerous battle with the disease of substance use disorder. As a result, he has educated thousands of families, state employees, individuals, employers, and professional organizations on the highly accountable professional afflicted with substance use disorder. As the Parkdale CEO and IPRP compliance director, he is committed to providing health care professionals, their employers, and their families with the most effective, comprehensive, and progressive treatment, monitoring, and accountability programs possible.

Chuck Harris

Porter County Recorder (former Porter County Coroner)

Panel 3 – The Realities of Reentry

Chuck graduated from Ball State University with a B.S. in biology.  Chuck’s experience in the Coroner’s office began in 2003 as a deputy coroner, and then to coroner on 2011.  Chuck serves on several board of director’s that all work in the field of substance abuse, including Porter County United Way, Porter-Starke, Porter County Substance Abuse Council, and the Porter County Community Action Coalition.  Chuck is also a licensed funeral director, licensed insurance agent, licensed level II Assessor, and a Diplomate of the Medical Legal Death Association.  During Chuck’s tenure as Coroner, he has spoken to most of the middle schools and all high schools in Porter County. In addition, Chuck has presented the “Choice’s” program to schools in Lake County and Illinois.  Lastly, Chuck participated in Sheriff Reynolds heroin video that is in the curriculum in all the schools in Porter County.

Kerry Hawk Lessard

Executive Director of Native American Lifelines

Panel 1 – When Do We Call Crisis?

Kerry Hawk Lessard is an Applied Medical Anthropologist working in the area of Urban American Indian Health.

While an undergraduate at Florida Atlantic University, Kerry completed fieldwork with HIV+ Haitian immigrants living in South Florida. It was in the course of this work that she became aware of the importance of culture, both in the ways it shapes our understanding of health and wellness, but also how these deeply held beliefs impact decision making and behavior.

At Native American Lifelines, an Urban Indian Health Program in Baltimore City, Kerry leads a team of dedicated individuals who are committed to improving the lives of its constituents. This commitment is nowhere stronger than in their efforts to educate, support, empower, and protect Native youth. Applying decolonization theory and engaging culturally informed practices such as talking circles, traditional arts, and indigenous foodways, Native American Lifelines seeks always to honor and strengthen cultural identity, thereby building resiliency and creating opportunities for better health outcomes.

Megan Johnston

Coordinator of Recovery Connection at PACT

Panel 2 – The Interdependence of Dependence

Panel 3 – The Realities of Reentry

Megan Johnston received her Bachelor’s Degree from Purdue University Northwest and is an Indiana Community Health Worker/Certified Recovery Specialist. She works for Porter County PACT as Coordinator of Recovery Connection, a program that offers free recovery support services to persons in recovery from substance abuse and addiction as well as their support members.

Cara Jones

Program and Community Education Manager at HealthLinc

Panel 4 – Special Focus: Healthcare Professionals

Cara Jones is the Program and Community Education Manager at HealthLinc, a federally qualified health center with locations around Northwest Indiana providing primary and preventive care services, health and wellness education, wellness checks and immunizations, chronic disease management and more. Prior to her work with HealthLinc, Cara served as the Program Director for Porter County United Against Opioid Abuse (for United Way Porter County), responsible for overseeing the Opioid Working Group with other community leaders.

Kathie Kane-Willis

Director of Policy and Advocacy at Chicago Urban League

Panel 1 – When Do We Call Crisis?

Kathie Kane-Willis is a multiple-award winning public policy researcher with more than 20 years of public policy research and successfully advancing advocacy campaigns. Kathie’s work has been featured in the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun-Times, Crain’s Chicago Business, Newsweek, the Economist, the Wall Street Journal and many other print and broadcast outlets across the United States.

In 2016, Kathie Kane-Willis joined the Chicago Urban League as the Director of Policy and Advocacy under the Research and Policy Center. Kathie’s work at the Chicago Urban League focuses on advancing policies that dovetail with Blueprint for an Equitable Chicago, the League’s 10 year plan to dismantle structural inequities and racism. Kathie’s day to day work includes working with established and emerging coalitions in a variety of areas, external and internal partner cultivation, and ensuring that the plan is brought to fruition. She advances policies and advocates on behalf of a broad range of social justice issues at the intersection of race, including education, criminal justice reform, housing, and basic human needs.

Prior to joining the League, Kathie co-founded and directed the Illinois Consortium on Drug Policy for 11 years, a public policy research institute at Roosevelt University in order to foster a public health approach to drug use and drug policy. Kathie’s accomplishments during that time included advancing and implementing harm reduction policy solutions to the heroin and opioid crisis, including Good Samaritan immunity laws and naloxone access laws in the Midwest, criminal justice reform legislation and removal of collateral consequences related to criminal convictions. Kathie has served as an adjunct professor at Roosevelt University and Adler University teaching at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Kathie serves on a number of boards and commissions. Kathie, a lifelong Chicagoan, lives with her family on Chicago’s West side, in Humboldt Park.

Emily Knippenberg ’16 Barnes, BSN, RN

Clinical Nurse Coordinator at Lawndale Christian Health Center

Panel 4 -Special Focus: Healthcare Professionals

Emily Barnes currently serves as the Clinical Nurse Coordinator at Lawndale Christian Health Center (LCHC), a Federally Qualified Health Center on Chicago’s West side. LCHC strives to show and share the love of Jesus by promoting wellness and providing quality, affordable healthcare for Lawndale and the neighboring communities, and works with populations of high medical and social need. Emily assists in these efforts through her clinical work in family practice and pregnancy care, as well as in the strategic planning and development of nursing operations and new clinic initiatives.

James Lott

Founder and CEO of fiduscript

Panel 3 – The Realities of Reentry

James is  Founder and Chief Executive Officer of fiduscript (an organization that supplies Naloxone and Fentanyl test strips to the public). He has over a decade of experience in the pharmacy setting including serving as a former Pharmacy Manager and Adjunct Instructor teaching pharmacy law. He is an alumni with leadership fellowships in both public health, and policy at the Albert Schweitzer Fellow and the Discovery Institutes Chapman Fellow. James is currently a student at the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy – pursuing a Masters degree in Public Policy (MPP), and a Certificate in Health Administration and Policy (GPHAP program). He obtained his Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) from Chicago State University.

Natalie Muskin-Press, MA, LCAC

Coordinator of OADE/Staff Therapist at Valparaiso University Counseling Center

Panel 2 – The Interdependence of Dependence

Natalie Muskin-Press, is the Coordinator of OADE/Staff Therapist at the Valparaiso University Counseling Center. She is a member of the Indiana Counselor’s Association on Alcohol and Drug Abuse. Her clinical interests include substance abuse and dependence, body image and self-esteem issues, and feminist theory.

Aaron Payne

Opioid Reporter for Ohio Valley ReSource

Panel 1 – When Do We Call Crisis?

Aaron Payne tackles the related issues of addiction recovery and economic recovery for the ReSource. He is a radio guy who first took to the airwaves at WMUL-FM, the campus voice for Marshall University, where he studied journalism. Aaron was the play-by-play voice of the West Virginia Miners baseball team (and he has the championship ring to prove it). At West Virginia Public Broadcasting he covered the state legislature and a chemical spill that left more than a quarter of a million people without potable water – including him. Aaron has also been a correspondent and director of news and programming for West Virginia MetroNews. In his spare time, Aaron enjoys listening to music, reading a good book, wandering in the outdoors and watching sports of all kinds.

Mitchell A. Peters

Chairman of the Harold “Hal” Kelly Respite Foundation

Panel 3 – The Realities of Reentry

Mitch Peters is Chairman of the Harold “Hal” Kelly Respite Foundation, better known as Respite House, a Halfway House for Men. Respite House facilitates resources which provide for the educational, charitable and social welfare activities connected with the habilitation and rehabilitation of men suffering from chemical dependency and related disorders.

Justin Phillips, MA, MA, Clinical Addictions Counseling

Executive Director and Founder of Overdose Lifeline

Panel 2 – The Interdependence of Dependence

Justin Phillips is a mother of three children, two boys and a girl. One of her sons, Aaron age 20, resides in heaven due to an overdose of heroin in October 2013.

Justin has spent her career in the nonprofit and public sector educating parents and caregivers on the prevention of childhood injuries. In her personal life she has involved herself with the important cause of alcohol and drug recovery. Despite her best efforts, she could not help Aaron win his fight or beat the powerful drug heroin.

Justin believes in advocacy and grassroots efforts to make impact in the community. Following the death of Aaron, Aaron’s friend Jake, and countless other lives from heroin and other drugs, Justin has decided to dedicate her life in their memory.

Justin provides her expertise, her passion, and her experience through Overdose Lifeline, Inc., a non profit created to raise awareness and eliminate the stigma of drug addiction. Overdose Lifeline, Inc. is a place for hope.

Reylla Santos, MA, LPC

Mental Health and Addiction Counselor at Veduta Consulting

Panel 2 – The Interdependence of Dependence

Board certified counselor Reylla Santos graduated with a Master’s Degree in Forensic Psychology from The Chicago School of Professional Psychology and is currently a doctoral student in Counseling Education at Adler University. Reylla has been working in the field of mental health and addiction in the U.S. for over five years. Her current practice and research is focused on addiction issues. Reylla is also an active member of the Restorative Justice committee in the Association of Counseling Education and Supervision (ACES), subdivision of the ACA.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email