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Keynote Speaker: Maia Szalavitz
Award-Winning Neuroscience Author, Journalist & Mental Health Advocate

Maia Szalavitz is the author, most recently, of Undoing Drugs:  The Untold Story of Harm Reduction and the Future of Addiction, which is the first history of the movement aimed at focusing drug policy on minimizing harms, not highs. 

Her previous New York Times bestseller, Unbroken Brain: A Revolutionary New Way of Understanding Addiction wove together neuroscience and social science with her personal experience of heroin addiction.  It won the 2018 media award from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

She writes regularly for the New York Times and has written for numerous other publications including TIME, Wired, Elle, The Nation, Vice, The Guardian, and Scientific American.

Her 2006 book, Help at Any Cost: How the Troubled Teen Industry Cons Parents and Hurts Kids, was the first to expose the damage caused by “tough love” youth treatment and helped spur Congressional hearings.

She has also authored or co-authored five other books, including the classic on child trauma, The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog, with Dr. Bruce D. Perry.  With Dr. Perry, she has also written Born for Love:  Why Empathy Is Essential—And Endangered, which laid out why empathy is essential for social trust and how inequality can erode it.  With Dr. Joseph Volpicelli, she wrote Recovery Options:  The Complete Guide, the first evidence-based guide to addiction treatment.

Erica C. Ernst, LCSW, RDDP, EMT-P, CADC
Clinical Director / Board President
Renaissance Social Services, Inc. / Chicago Recovery Alliance

Erica has worked in the fields of mental health, substance use, and homeless services for 30 years, joining Renaissance Social Services, Inc. as their Clinical Director in 2016.  Erica formerly worked at Thresholds for 21 years in permanent supportive housing, city-wide street and CTA homeless outreach, and HIV testing services.  Erica has volunteered with the Chicago Recovery Alliance for the last 15 years, providing naloxone, HCV/HIV testing, clean injection, snorting and smoking supplies, and offering counseling.  Erica leads the current CRA Board of Directors, and previously served in interim leadership.  Erica is a member of the Urban Survivors’ Union, and is a founding member of both Chicago Drug Users’ Union and Drug Users’ Health Collective of Chicago. Prior to moving to Chicago, Erica worked in a 250 bed men’s shelter in Boston. Erica consults and speaks nationally on such topics as Harm Reduction, Trauma Informed Care, Overdose Prevention, Homelessness and Mental Health.

Vilmarie Fraguada Narloch, PsyD
Director of Drug Education
Students for Sensible Drug Policy

Vilmarie Fraguada Narloch, PsyD. is a licensed clinical psychologist focusing on integrated treatment of co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders. She is the co-founder and Director of the nonprofit, Sana Healing Collective, in Chicago. She is an activist working to end the War on Drugs and advocates for science and reality-based drug education and harm reduction approaches for all. She approaches her work from a harm reductionist and humanistic lens, focusing on the individual needs of the person, group, or community. She received a certificate in psychedelic therapies and research from the California Institute of Integral Studies in 2018.

Nicole Gastala, MD
Medical Director
Substance Use Prevention and Recovery Division of IDHS

Dr. Gastala is board certified in Family Medicine and Addiction Medicine. She graduated from Loyola Stritch School of Medicine and completed her Family Medicine residency at the University of Iowa. In her clinical role, she has developed and expanded MAR by mentoring new prescribers, precepting residents, and training clinicians within the Chicago and Illinois communities.  She has also focused on the development of a walk-in integrated behavioral health, addiction, and primary care program within her FQHC system at UI Health Mile Square Health Center. In January 2021, Dr Gastala joined the team at the Substance Use Prevention and Recovery Division of IDHS as the Medical Director. 

Damon Harris
Certified Peer Support Specialist / Case Manager / Harm Reductionist
Utah Naloxone

I am a 50 year old bi-racial (black/white) cis male that grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah which is 90% white. I am a domestic violence and suicide survivor. The adverse childhood experiences I experienced afforded me being introduced to drug culture at 15, which transpired into a state of chaotic substance misuse at 19 with injecting cocaine and heroin. This relationship lasted 30 years with 10 years being incarcerated in-between prison and jail, 12 inpatient treatment centers, and many hospital stays that stem from overdose and infections from my intravenous drug use. A lot of these unnecessary interventions were the result of being diagnosed with an opioid use disorder and not CPTSD until 2 years ago. I worked for Utah Harm Reduction Coalition with helping run their SSP for 4 years and I have been with Utah Naloxone helping them for the past 2 years. I also worked at a therapeutic community for 4 years called Odyssey House. I am currently in trauma therapy trying to figure this all out and leaving my community better than I arrived is my anthem.

Rhana Hashemi, MS, PhD Candidate
Drug Educator
Drug Lady Collective

Rhana Hashemi is a PhD student in Social Psychology at Stanford University and a drug educator based in the Bay Area. She brings a public health and social justice approach to designing prevention interventions that improve the safety and well-being of young people at-risk for drug-related problems in schools.  Her comprehensive drug education and harm reduction programs have successfully reached thousands of students each year. 

Rhana founded the Drug Lady Collective in 2015 in response to the absence of honest drug information, drug educators, and non-punitive support spaces in schools. She has since partnered with schools, districts, and non-profit organizations (Harm Reduction Coalition and Drug Policy Alliance) to develop youth-focused harm reduction programs and policies. As part of this work, she presents over 300 drug education workshops for middle and high school students every year. She also advises on curriculum development and was a key contributor to Safety First, the nation’s first harm reduction-based drug education curriculum. Rhana trains students and teachers alike to act as leaders in nationwide efforts to transform school-based drug education. 

Raised in Los Angeles, Rhana holds a M.S in Community Health Prevention Research from Stanford School of Medicine and a B.A in Social Welfare with honors from UC Berkeley. In her future work, Rhana hopes to advocate for laws that mandate harm reduction curriculums and restorative justice in schools. 

Mikayla Hellwich, MSW Candidate
Founder & Director
Drug Education Consulting, LLC

Mikayla Hellwich (she/her) is a drug educator, behavioral health coach, and mindfulness teacher in the DC-area. She is the founder of Drug Education Consulting, which provides behavioral health coaching and harm reduction-based drug education to schools, families, and nightlife spaces. As a mindfulness teacher she pushes back against the “recovery requires sobriety” narrative by carving out space in meditation communities for people who use drugs. She has spent the last 12 years advocating for policies and programs that improve health outcomes for people who use drugs, minimize police involvement in marginalized communities, and shrink the carceral state. Mikayla’s testimonies have been submitted to more than 25 state legislatures and US Congress.

David T. Jones
Chief Behavioral Health Officer for the State of Illinois
Office of Governor JB Pritzker

David T. Jones serves as the Chief Behavioral Health Officer focusing on further transforming how Illinois supports mental, emotional and overall behavioral health wellness for all Illinoisians. David previously served as Director for the Division of Substance Use Prevention and Recovery with Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS/SUPR). IDHS/SUPR oversees and licenses a network of community- based substance use prevention and substance use disorder and recovery Providers. Previously David served as Commissioner of Philadelphia’s Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services. David provided oversight of a $1 billion healthcare agency with nearly one thousand employees. As a Behavioral Health Administrator with over twenty-five years of progressive collaborative management experience, David has produced measurable results to improve the lives of children, adults and families with behavioral health needs. He possesses a vast in- depth knowledge of state and federal regulations inclusive of Medicaid managed care and Mental Health Rehabilitation Standards. David has managed both an urban and suburban public behavioral health system that achieved outcomes inclusive of increasing access to care and expanding the range of services available to people with behavioral health care needs.

Stephanie Jones, MA
Harm Reduction Educator, Advocate, Communicator

Stefanie Jones is one of the United States’ leading advocates for a harm reduction approach to alcohol and other drug use in nightlife, festivals and events. During her 16-year career with the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), a national advocacy nonprofit working to end the drug war and promote drug policies centered in health and social and racial justice, she founded and ran the Safer Partying program, which partnered with production companies like Insomniac (EDC Vegas, Escape, Beyond Wonderland), The Do Lab (Lightning in a Bottle) and Made Event (Electric Zoo NY) to adopt harm reduction principles and practices at their events. Stefanie has hired, trained, and managed onsite teams engaged in drug education, safety and mental health support at festivals as well as written and edited health and safety social and marketing content for these events. She has also promoted drug checking, a harm reduction practice testing substances for adulterants and engaging people who use drugs in conversations about their safety and well-being.

While at DPA, Stefanie also oversaw the creation of Safety First, the first harm reduction-based drug education curriculum for high school students. Safety First has been independently evaluated as effective and is now actively used in an ever-growing number of schools across the U.S. In her earliest roles with DPA, Stefanie produced four progressively larger editions of the biennial International Drug Policy Reform Conference, as well as numerous local policy conferences, fundraisers and coalition-building meetings. Most recently, she served as DPA’s interim managing director of communications for two years, overseeing all external communications and helping direct overall organizational policy as part of the senior management team. She is now freelance consulting as a harm reduction advocate and based in the Boston area.

Tom Kinley
Field Support and Systems Change Facilitation
Heartland’s Midwest Harm Reduction Institute / IL Co-occurring Center for Excellence / Heartland Center for Systems Change

Tom Kinley (he/him) brings 41 years of experience in collaborative partnerships supporting individuals experiencing mental illness, substance use, poverty, homelessness, law enforcement encounters and incarceration, gender/sexual orientation discrimination, neglect and abuse. For 35 years Tom served with Thresholds in Chicago; 25 of those as Program Director to the Dincin Center for Recovery. Throughout his tenure, Tom oversaw program development and change management, inclusive of residential, employment, social, education, and integrated healthcare services. He provided supervision, mentorship, direct client care, and facilitated a weekly Family Support Group. The Center provided an open door, open campus and outreach program, including three warm meals daily. Tom also spent two years in a small town rural setting providing support services to those living with mental health, substance use, and homelessness experiences. 

For the past four years Tom has been with Heartland Alliance Health in Chicago. He oversaw a SAMHSA/SUPR Cooperative Agreements to Benefit Homeless Individuals grant, promoting efforts for needed support services being accessible to youth and families experiencing homelessness in Illinois. This work included facilitating the Illinois Interagency Council on Homelessness (ICH) in its efforts to reduce service barriers and promote state oversite in coordinating all aspects of eliminating homelessness and housing insecurity. 

Tom presently provides field support and systems change facilitation under Heartland’s Midwest Harm Reduction Institute / IL Co-occurring Center for Excellence / Heartland Center for Systems Change.  He has a particular passion for ensuring staff have the recognition, support, and care necessary for engaging in supportive partnerships with those who live with mental health and substance use challenges. He has a MA in Teaching which lends itself well to what he sees as the heart of his work.  Tom grew up biracial in Japan, which he still considers home, and has a personal interest in psycho-spiritual practices and applications. 

Jen Nagel-Fischer, R-CPRS, IL-CRSS
Founder / Executive Director
The Porchlight Collective, SAP

Jen Nagel-Fischer (she/they) R-CPRS, IL-CRSS, is a person in self-defined long-term recovery from substance use disorder and co-occurring mental health diagnoses.  She is the Founder and Executive Director of The Porchlight Collective SAP, a progressive three county mobile harm reduction program based in Madison County, IL.  Seeing a need for accessible harm reduction services in Metro East IL, she founded The Porchlight Collective SAP in the summer of 2017.  Operating underground until August 2019, The Porchlight Collective SAP now serves 310+ program participants monthly via direct and secondary distribution.  PLC is registered with IDPH as a harm reduction provider, and provides point-of-service drug sample reagent testing, lab confirmatory testing, peer services, naloxone, safer use supplies, safer smoking and safer snorting kits, wound care services, community education, and referrals to community resources.

Jen is a Certified SMART Recovery Facilitator and Certified MHFA Provider, and she is currently studying Public and Social Health Policy.  She is a peer advisor for MERC, a member of the Executive Committee for the PDFC, a member of IHHRC and serves on the Diversity and Inclusion sub-committee, a member of ACDC (Alliance for Collaborative Drug Checking), is a member of ACLU-IL’s Drug Policy Reform and Media and Communications committees, and has served as a stimulant and chemsex expert on drug user health review panels for UNAIDS and the UNODCP.  She has experience working in SUD tx and is currently a Wellness Specialist for the Illinois Mental Health Collaborative.

Sam Rivera
Executive Director
OnPoint NYC

Sam Rivera, has over 29 years of progressive experience in social services. His primary focus of expertise lies in Criminal Justice/Reentry, HIV/AIDS, Harm Reduction, Addiction/Recovery, and Mental Health. He currently serves as the Executive Director of New York Harm Reduction Educators and Washington Heights Corner Project, two merging harm reduction organizations that provide services to active drug users and sex workers in Northern Manhattan and The South Bronx, many of whom are low-income or homeless as well as of color and LGBTQ. He brings to this role his several decades of cutting-edge service provision experience and a commitment to social justice. He has dedicated his professional career to ameliorating the harms associated with the War on Drugs, racism/sexism, structural inequality, and mass incarceration and will continue to work to end systemic as well as systematic barriers to populations that are most vulnerable. 

Chris Schaffner, CADC
Program Director
Jolt Harm Reduction

Chris has worked in the substance use field for nearly two decades. He has experience in outpatient, residential settings, specialty courts, and MAT programs. Chris was the grant director for the drug overdose prevention program at the Human Service Center in Peoria, Illinois prior to becoming the Program Director at Jolt Harm Reduction. Chris recently was awarded the Sam Belfer Award from the ACLU, Peoria ChapterChris’s passions are working toward social equity in health care, advocating for criminal justice reform, the Chicago Cubs, and his dog Bella.

Joe Trotter
Harm Reduction Program Coordinator
Champaign-Urbana Public Health District

Joe Trotter is an employee of the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District as a Harm Reduction Program Coordinator. Joe has been working in the field of harm reduction and disease prevention for over 15 years. He helped start a syringe exchange in Champaign County in 2008. He has expanded syringe access and overdose prevention in East Central Illinois and has served as an advocate for harm reduction practice in the public health field.

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