From the Massachusetts Council on Compulsive Gambling: 2013 Massachusetts Conference on Gambling Problems: Working Together to Create New Pathways for Success

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On Friday, April 26th, 2013, the Massachusetts Council on Compulsive Gambling hosted the “2013 Massachusetts Conference on Gambling Problems” at Endicott College’s Wylie Inn and Conference Center. More than 110 people gathered to discuss the state of problem gambling in the Commonwealth.
Attendees were welcomed to the North Shore by State Representative John Keenan (D-Salem), followed by the Mass Council Executive Director, Marlene Warner, and Deputy Director of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Bureau of Substance Abuse Services, Lydie Ultimo.
Next, Commissioner Enrique Zuniga of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission and Rachel Volberg, Ph.D, of Gemini Research delivered an impressive keynote address, setting the tone of camaraderie for long journey ahead in light of gambling expansion and the Commonwealth’s commitment to problem gambling services. Commissioner Enrique Zuniga stated, “As a critical component of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission’s evaluation criteria, gaming applicants will be required to strategically and methodically address concerns related to problem gambling. Ensuring responsible gambling is a top priority for the Commission and we greatly value our ongoing partnership with MCCG.”
The keynote address was followed by the presentation of The Thomas N. Cummings Leadership Award, which was awarded to Dot Duda, M Ed, LMHC, LMFT, LADCI, MAPGS, Director of Outpatient Psychiatry & PARC at Mount Auburn Hospital, for her vision, courage, and dedication in the field of problem gambling, and presented by Former Executive Director and previous recipient of the Award, Kathleen M. Scanlan.
The award was named after Thomas N. Cummings who founded the Mass Council on Compulsive Gambling in 1983. Tom had a vision to help those struggling with problem gambling, as he struggled himself. He had the courage to stand up and fight on behalf of compulsive gamblers in New England, during a time when the issue had almost no recognition. And until the day he passed away in 1998, Tom was dedicated to the cause.
According to Mass. Council Intervention and Treatment Director, Victor Ortiz, “Dot has always demonstrated great clinical commitment, passion, and support to problem gambling services.  We wish that every clinician was like her.  She is committed to training all of her staff to become Massachusetts Problem Gambling Specialists (MAPGS), and problem gambling is part of every curriculum that she develops. This is all due to Dot’s outstanding leadership.” 
After receiving the award, Dot expressed that she was surprised and nearly overwhelmed. She stated, “It was such an honor. I also have to say, I have such great appreciation for the Mass Council and am thrilled to be a part of it. I will always remember this day.” Dot continued to discuss the importance of capacity building and her hopes that the Commonwealth will have more people trained and comfortable to treat problem gamblers well before the casinos are built.
Following the Thomas N. Cummings Leadership Award, four plaques were given out to industry members in recognition of their joining The Massachusetts Partnership for Responsible Gambling (MPRG), an alliance of gambling industry leaders, regulators, and problem gambling experts committed to responsible gambling practices, including Mohegan Sun Massachusetts, the Massachusetts State Lottery, Plainridge Racecourse, Caesar’s Resort at Suffolk Downs, and the Massachusetts Council on Compulsive Gambling.
The MPRG members are leaders in industry efforts to reduce the social, emotional and financial impact of problem gambling in Massachusetts. Their collective work will allow the 351 cities and towns across the Commonwealth to equip and prepare themselves with the proper data and tools to prevent, intervene and treat gambling disorders. In addition, this group has committed education and time to best train their gaming employees to understand, recognize and refer their customers that are in need of help to the proper resources,” explained the Mass Council’s Executive Director, Marlene Warner.
After the presentations, conference attendees went to workshop sessions based on exploring ideas about collective responsibilities regarding the future of Treatment, Prevention and Advocacy for problem gambling services in the Commonwealth, especially during the era of expanded gambling.
The morning session included the following workshops:
  • Building Treatment Capacity: The Holyoke Treatment Model and the New DSM-V Criteria
  • Massachusetts Partnership on Responsible Gambling Group: Advocacy for Responsible Gambling
  • Innovations in the Prevention of Problem Gambling: “Stacked Deck,” Regional Prevention Meetings, College Athletes
The morning workshops broke for lunch, where Mass Council Consultant Jim Wuelfing highlighted the Council’s Wisdom Exchange Program. The Wisdom Exchange Program is a collection of stories about problem gambling – stories of strength, and triumph, stories that share experience, stories that remind us of what’s important and encourage us to persevere. Conference attendees were given the option of sharing their story on the spot to be used in the Council’s Wisdom Exchange Podcast that can be found on iTunes by searching Wisdom Exchange.
After the presentation, conference attendees headed to afternoon workshops:
  • Community Involvement in Supporting Recovery: Mental Health Peer Specialists, Recovery Centers and Recovery High Schools
  • Meeting the Challenges: Regional Collaborative Meetings
  • Gambling Expansion: New Opportunities in Advocacy
It was a great day and Conference participants welcomed the engagement between themselves and the Mass Council on Compulsive Gambling. Discussions were lively, informative and at times emotional. They look forward to continuing open conversation and watching future developments regarding gambling expansion and problem gambling services in the Commonwealth.
Support for the Conference was generously provided by the following sponsors:

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Bureau of Substance Abuse Services
·    AdCare Education Institute, Inc.
·    Mohegan Sun Massachusetts
·    The Massachusetts State Lottery
·    Caesar’s Resort at Suffolk Downs
·    Plainridge Racecourse
·    Sara Beatrice Design
·    Printing Solutions, Inc.
·    Custom Benefits Group
·    Crown Trophy
·    Baystate Financial Services
·    Pro PC Service
·    BoldMoves Consulting
·    The Optical House

Check out more pictures from the conference here!

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Founded in 1983, the Massachusetts Council on Compulsive Gambling is a private, non-profit public health agency dedicated to providing leadership to reduce the social, financial, and emotional costs of problem gambling and to promote a continuum of prevention and intervention strategies including: information and public awareness, community education and professional training, advocacy, and helpline / referral services for problem gamblers, their loved ones and the greater community.

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