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Substance abuse specialist to speak at Social Justice Conference

March 2017


The St. Ambrose University School of Social Work is pleased to invite Carol Ackley to speak at the Social Justice Conference May 11.

Ackley worked in the substance abuse field for more than 25 years as a licensed alcohol and drug counselor in Minnesota. As executive director of River Ridge Treatment Center from 2001-2015, Ackley developed and implemented gender responsive, trauma-informed, co-occurring treatment services in the Twin Cities metro area.

Ackley has been closely associated with Dr. Stephanie Covington and the Center for Gender and Justice and has assisted her in the development of gender-responsive and trauma-informed programming for women, men, and adolescents. In addition to serving as a consultant for both the National Institute of Health and National Institute of Corrections, Ackley is a national speaker on issues related to gender, addictions, co-occurring disorders, trauma-informed services, and the impact of addiction on family systems.

Ackley will speak at the conference about substance abuse among women. According to a 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (pdf), 10.7 percent of women 15-44 years-old used illicit substances. In addition, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports 42 women die every day from a drug overdose, and in 2010, more than 940,000 women were admitted to emergency departments for drug misuse or abuse.

In an interview with MSW student Breann Hirst, Ackley said "most research has been done with adult men," which is not helpful for women in addictions because "they need different treatment modalities." "Treating internal pain" needs to be a part of the treatment plan, she said.

The CDC-Kaiser Permanente Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study found that 65.5 percent of women have experienced at least one adverse childhood experience. When asked about the significance of the intersectionality of women, addiction, and trauma, Ackley said they are "interrelated. We need to treat addiction and trauma concurrently in a cohesive and connected way."

She continued by saying that once treatment modalities changed to address gender, "women stayed in treatment and sober longer." Local agencies can help more women by getting educated about gender-specific treatment, Ackley said, and move toward making their programs inclusive of women.

Register online to hear Ackley speak at this year's conference, May 11.

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