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On Saturday, Feb. 23, from 8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m., a group of professionals from the health industry, community service programs and law enforcement will gather at USF Sarasota-Manatee to discuss strategies to fight the opioid epidemic, raise awareness and promote addiction treatment services.

The conference, called “Releasing the Chokehold: Opiate Use Nationally and in Our Communities,” is open to the public and features panelists including Nathan Scott, the child-welfare policy coordinator at the Family Safety Alliance; Sara Smith, a marriage and family therapist at the Miami Rescue Mission; and Detective Carl Jones of the Bradenton Police Department. Behavioral health advocate and activist Leah Hill, who collaborated on the Surgeon General’s recent opiates panel, will deliver the keynote address. Tickets are $25, which includes morning pastries, coffee and lunch, and must be purchased in advance. The deadline for tickets is Feb. 20.

Manatee County has been especially hard hit by the opioid crisis, with one of the nation’s highest rates of opioid overdose deaths.

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