Director of the Center for Mental Health Services of SAMHSA will be the keynote speaker at Saint Leo conference, March 11.

"With the increase in gun violence across America, be it in churches, schools, or the general community, the resulting trauma affects all populations," says Dr. Victoria Anyikwa, associate professor of social work at Saint Leo University.

"Our nation is suffering with this increased violence. And while not all perpetrators of violence are mentally ill, mental health has been a major focus in the media."

Discussing the link between societal violence and mental health and solutions for promoting positive change is the topic of Saint Leo's second national Social Work Conference, "Societal Violence: Mental Health Response & Treatment."

Keynote speaker for the conference is Paolo del Vecchio, MSW, director of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)'s Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS).

Roslyn Holliday Moore, who serves as a health policy analyst, administrator and systems designer with SAMHSA, will be the featured luncheon speaker.

The one-day conference at Saint Leo's University Campus in St. Leo, Fla. brings together social work experts, educators, practitioners, community partners and students and takes place on Friday, March 11, 2016. It is sponsored by the undergraduate and graduate social work programs in the university's School of Education and Social Services.

Timely topic for social workers

"We are extremely excited about this year's conference," says Anyikwa who is conference co-chair with Dr. Marguerite McInniss, department chair of social work. "In planning these conferences, we try to address issues that are hot topics in today's society where social workers intervene. And to have the nation's top advisor on mental health as our plenary speaker and another high-level executive from SAMHSA as our luncheon speaker is quite an honor."

SAMHSA is the lead feral agency designed to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America's communities. As director, del Vecchio provides executive leadership for federal efforts to improve the nation's mental health service systems. This includes management of the federal/state mental health block grant program and directing a range of programs and activities that address topics such as suicide prevention, children's mental health, homelessness, disaster mental health, HIV/AIDS, and others.

Saint Leo experts featured

Concurrent workshops offered during the conference are geared to educate and advance practitioners' knowledge and skills in providing services to advance change. Specific topics such as domestic violence. Addressing the theme of "time to heal," workshop presenters will offer strategies that promote inclusion, hope, healing and justice – both social and economic.

In addition to several community partners and social work experts, multiple Saint Leo faculty members will present workshops during the conference.

  • Lisa Rapp-McCall, PhD, MSW
    Mass School Shootings: What Are We Doing Wrong? Where Do We Go From Here?
  • Patricia Tobin Senger, PhD (with Kim Brian Senger)
    Gang Violence: Why Youth Join? Why They Leave
  • Jim Whitworth PhD, MSW; Courtney E. Wiest, Ed.D, MSW
    Suicide Assessment with Military Members and Veterans: Preventing Violence with a Multi-Dimensional Culture-Specific Approach
  • Felicia Wilson, PhD, LMSW
    Closing the Gap—Disparities in Mental Health Coverage
  • Diane Scotland-Coogan , LCSW
    Living with a Veteran with PTSD, the spouse and children's perspective and considerations for treatment
  • Rhondda Waddell, PhD, LCSW; Debra Mims
    Linking Acts of Cruelty to Animals and Violence Towards Humans

Click here to see a complete conference agenda, including all workshop speakers.

Networking opportunities for students and faculty

A Community Showcase of local agencies will take place during the conference during which faculty, staff and students will be able to interact with these community organizations and explore volunteer and employment opportunities. In addition, Saint Leo social work students will be on hand to present their current research to conference participants.

Growing need for social workers

According to the U.S. Bureau for Labor Statistics, social work jobs are growing at 12 percent – faster than the national average for all occupations. Growth rates for mental health and substance abuse social workers are projected to grow even faster at 19 percent.

To help meet this demand, Saint Leo offers an on-ground bachelor's degree in social work (BSW) a graduate online MSW-Advanced Clinical Practice offered both full time and part time; and an online MSW-Advanced Standing program for those with a bachelor's degree in social work.

"Saint Leo proudly boasts both a BSW program and an MSW program that are rigorous and of high quality," says Anyikwa. "This annual conference is a way to promote our programs both locally and nationally."

All Saint Leo social work students may attend the conference free of charge.

Registration open, continuing education credits available

The conference provides up to 6 continuing education units for licensed clinical social workers, licensed mental health counselors, and licensed marriage and family therapists. Florida professionals are required to satisfy their continuing education credits by March 31, 2016.

To register for the conference, visit the conference website.

Image credits: Triff on Shutterstock and SAMHSA