Category: blog

We are already planning for the next Broward Mental Health Summit!

We are already planning for the next Broward Mental Health Summit!

After the success of our inaugural event, the Broward Mental Health Summit (BMHS) this past September, we couldn’t wait to get started on the planning of our next event, the 2019 Broward Mental Health Summit which will take place at the same Charles F. Dodge Center in Pembroke Pines on September 12, 2019.  While the inaugural Summit drew over 400 people and $35,000 in sponsorships and donations, we are looking to exceed these totals in 2019.

Broward Mental Health Summit is already the most talked about and anticipated behavioral health event in South Florida.  With media coverage from NBC-6 as well as radio air time, our event has been mentioned in dozens of local and national publications.  Of course, the Summit has also been featured prominently in social media, including Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter.

What’s unique about the Broward Mental Health Summit? Unlike other behavioral health industry events, BMHS is about bringing the community together, from all walks of life.  “Our goal is to get the community to talk about mental health openly”, said the Summit’s co-Chairman David Lam. “By talking, we are in essence normalizing mental health and promoting greater understanding and acceptance for those struggling with the disease.”

If you are passionate about mental health and would like to become our community partners, the following are a list of scheduled sponsorships available:

Presenting Sponsor $7,500.00 (Industry Exclusive)

  • Beautiful Presenting Sponsorship Plaque (Presented on stage)
  • Presenting Sponsor’s logo on “Challenge Coin” commemorating event
  • Welcoming remarks by sponsor’s representative from the podium during morning invocation
  • Signage with Sponsor’s logo at door of all break rooms (seminars)
  • 40 Tickets to Event
  • Reserved Tables with Sponsor’s logo sign
  • Mention in Event Website (with logo linked to sponsor’s website)
  • Sponsor’s logo prominently placed in the Program Booklet’s cover page
  • Brief Presenting Sponsor message in Program Booklet introductory page
  • Full page/full color ad in Program Booklet
  • Sponsorship recognition with sponsor’s logo on giant screen during event
  • Sponsor’s mention in credits of the event video
  • Exhibitor Table
  • Invitation for sponsor’s representative to receive “proclamations” from county and city commissioners

Diamond Sponsor $5,000.00

  • Beautiful Diamond Sponsorship Plaque (Presented on stage)
  • Signage with Sponsor’s logo at door of all break rooms (seminars)
  • 30 Tickets to Event
  • Reserved Tables with Sponsor’s logo sign
  • Mention in Event Website (with logo linked to sponsor’s website)
  • Full page/full color ad in Program Booklet
  • Sponsorship recognition with Sponsor’s logo on giant screen during event
  • Sponsor’s mention in credits of the event video
  • Exhibitor Table

Platinum Sponsor $3,000.00

  • Beautiful Sponsorship Plaque (Presented on stage)
  • 20 Tickets to Event
  • Reserved Tables with Sponsor’s logo sign
  • Mention in Event Website (with logo linked to sponsor’s website)
  • Full page/full color ad in Program Booklet
  • Sponsorship recognition with sponsor’s logo on giant screen during event
  • Sponsor’s mention in credits of the event video
  • Exhibitor Table

To become a valued sponsor, please visit:  All proceeds for the Summit will benefit the Sheriff’s Foundation of Broward County, a qualifying 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.  For more information on how you can become a volunteer at the 2019 Broward Mental Health Summit, please call Spark of Hope at (954) 590-8363.

My personal reflections: Broward Mental Health Summit

My personal reflections: Broward Mental Health Summit

I am so proud to have been a part of the first ever Broward Mental Health Summit held on September 12th, 2018! This was a hugely successful event which brought awareness to the disease of Mental Health to the South Florida community. Seeing all of the amazing people at the Summit supporting us in our endeavor, and more importantly, who care about this disease as much as I do, brought tears to my eyes, a smile to my face and warmth to my heart.  The outpouring of support from our community prove that together, we can truly make a difference in the lives of those suffering from addiction and mental illness.

All of our guest speakers were amazingly informative and their words were incredibly moving.  If there was one speaker that stood out, it was Michi Marshall.  Her courageous story had the biggest impact on me, both as a woman and as someone coping with the mental illness of a loved one.  Not only because I’m a huge Dolphins fan, but the fact that she was able to share her story about her husband, Brandon Marshall, the famed football player, so openly and candidly was truly inspiring.  She realized that in spite of the beautiful mansion they lived in, the fancy cars they drove and all the money they had, it did not protect them from a disease like mental health.  Thankfully, once they became aware of what was happening to Brandon, treatment was sought immediately to help rectify the problem.  Courageously, they stood by each other’s side through the entire ordeal.  Michi eloquently expressed the importance of “being vulnerable so others can be vulnerable back with you”. WOW, how refreshingly poignant was this to hear because this was precisely what I’ve always felt to be true.  Although it might not be easy, but when someone has the ability to be vulnerable, healing can begin.  Trust can be rebuilt and a solid foundation can be re-established.

As I sat there marveling at the enormous crowd that turned out for the Summit, I couldn’t help but feel a tremendous sense of relief to know that there is incredible support as well as a wealth of information available to the community in our hopes to find the cure for mental illness one soul at a time.

I was honored from the first moment David asked me to become the Director of Spark Of Hope’s First Responders and Veterans Recovery Program, which was launched in January of this year.   I was moved immeasurably when he allowed me to name the Program (Cindi McCue Initiative) in honor of my close friend and former law enforcement colleague, Cindi McCue.  Tragically, Cindi, unbeknownst to those closest to her, suffered from mental illness and took her own life in 2015.

As a First Responder for over 18 years, I know first-hand how important it is to address addiction and Mental Health matters openly and free from stigma.  On a personal level, this disease is no stranger to me and to my family, as my oldest son has been struggling with mental health throughout his recent years.  Thankfully, he’d always felt safe to talk to me about everything and never had an issue dealing with his struggles.  I remembered the first time he disclosed the news to me at the age of 21…“Mom I think there’s something wrong with me. I don’t care about anything, I literally have no feelings about anything”.  I felt my heart sink.  I knew immediately then he needed to get help.  Thanks to Chrysalis, he was able to get an in-house therapist to help him at the time.  I will never forget the morning of June 1st, 2017, when my son, then 24, came into my room at 4 am to wake me up. Our conversation was eerily normal and brief.  He uttered the following words to me quietly “Mom, I’m not feeling well, I’m going to go to the hospital.” I asked him if he was ok.  He replied nonchalantly “yeah…yeah I must have a bug or something because my stomach is hurting”. Unbeknownst to me at the time, Coral Springs Police Officers were actually waiting in my living room to Baker Act him.  When I arrived home at 6 pm that evening, I realized that my son was still not back.  My maternal intuition instinctively kicked in and told me that there was something wrong. I told myself to calm down.  I began to dial the numbers of area hospitals, and after a few calls, thankfully, I located him! I spoke to the nurse in charge who advised she was unable to disclose any specific details about my son because he was an adult. She said the only thing she could tell me was that my son had been Baker Acted.  As soon as I heard those words, my heart sank again as tears streamed down my face uncontrollably.  From working in law enforcement for many years, I immediately knew what had happened.  I thanked the nurse and hung up the phone quickly.  I needed to be with my son. As I arrived at the hospital and hurried to my son’s bedside, I was horrified by the sight that confronted me.  My son was unconscious, surrounded by tubes and an IV protruding from his arm.  The sight sickened me to my core.  I will never forget this image of my poor son.  It is an image that no mother should have to bear.  Miraculously, my son recovered. Still, there were no words to aptly describe the feeling of despair of witnessing my son attempting to take his own life.  My “baby” was suffering and I was utterly helpless and unable to help him…

The disease of mental illness affects everyone.  It bears no mercy.  It does not discriminate.  No population is immune from it.  As a mother, I must fight with every fiber of my being to bring this disease to the forefront of acceptance.  As a First Responder, I will help others by being attentive to their cries for help.  As a concerned citizen, I hope you will join me to obliterate the stigma of those struggling with mental illness so we can provide better healthcare for those in need.

Faith Montgomery

Director of the Cindi McCue Initiative – First Responders’ Recovery Program

Spark of Hope

Spark of Hope joins Community Partners to create a historic summit on mental health in South Florida

Spark of Hope joins Community Partners to create a historic summit on mental health in South Florida

The mental health crisis has reached epic proportions in this country.  There is no population immune from the disease of mental illness.  From first responders to veterans, from the young to the elderly, Americans are suffering from mental health related illnesses like never before. Sadly, little has been done to effectively address the state of mental health crisis in America.  Finally, a group of caring and passionate professionals, known as Community Partners, are banding together in South Florida to do something about it.  Led by the leaders at the Sheriffs Foundation of Broward County, the Broward County Mental Health Summit Committee was formed to create awareness and to eradicate stigma associated with those suffering from mental illnesses.  Organizations and professionals from all walks of life, serving the non-profit and for-profit sectors, have come together to create this historic panel.  The following are a list of some of the organizations forming this distinguished panel:

  • Baptist Health of South Florida
  • Barry University
  • Broward 2-1-1
  • Broward Sheriff’s Foundation
  • Broward Sheriff’s Office (BSO)
  • Department of Veterans Affairs
  • Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF)
  • Florida Power and Light (FPL)
  • Henderson Behavioral Health
  • Hispanic Unity of Florida
  • inWeston Magazine
  • Jewish Federation of Broward County
  • Memorial Healthcare System
  • Nova Southeastern University
  • Naemi
  • Spark of Hope
  • United Way of Broward County
  • VDA Trial Lawyers
  • Vital Financial Group
  • Women in Distress of Broward County
  • Wellsfargo

Spark of Hope is proud to be an active Community Partner for such a worthwhile cause.  “The purpose of our existence as human beings is to serve and help others”, said David Lam, Executive Director of Spark of Hope.  “We are honored to be a part of such an auspicious undertaking and will provide whatever resources necessary to serve our community and those in need.”

Captain Juan “JC” Arias, Executive Director of Sheriffs Foundation of Broward County and Chairman of The Broward Mental Health Summit is excited about the growing list of volunteering organizations and professionals joining the Summit’s Committee in the recent weeks.  “We’d started with just a few volunteers in the beginning and it has quickly expanded to 32 current Community Partners.  Through our collective efforts, we will be reaching tens of thousands of citizens in the next several weeks.”

The Broward County Mental Health Summit Committee’s inaugural event is entitled “Broward Mental Health Summit” and will take place on Wednesday September 12, 2018 at the Charles F. Dodge City Center in Pembroke Pines.  An esteemed panel of mental health experts and guest lecturers will be on hand to speak about the current state of mental health as it relates to the following populations: Veterans, Law Enforcement, the Elderly, Youths, and Attorneys. The expected turn-out for this unprecedented event is between 800-1000 attendees.  The Summit organizers hope to use the event as a platform to galvanize support and funding for future events and projects.

For more information or to register to purchase tickets for the Broward Mental Health Summit, please visit:

If you would like to donate or become a sponsor for this great cause, please contact us at:  All proceeds will benefit the Sheriff’s Foundation of Broward County.







The Opioid Epidemic: Why is it More Prevalent Now and Targeting Young White Americans?

The Opioid Epidemic: Why is it More Prevalent Now and Targeting Young White Americans?

With drug overdose being considered the leading cause of accidental deaths in the US with an estimated 91 people dying every day from opioid use disorder, it is no wonder why we are in an opioid crisis. In 2015, 2 million Americans 12 or older had a substance use disorder involving prescription pain relievers and over 20,000 overdose deaths were related to prescription pain relievers (American Society of Addiction Medicine, 2016). This paper takes a look at why more people have access to legal opioids, the implications on having this access, and why the opioid epidemic is targeting primarily young white Americans.

This epidemic is partially due to the fact that the number of written opioid prescriptions has skyrocketed. In 2012 alone, 259 million prescriptions were written for opioids (American Society of Addiction Medicine, 2016). This incredible number includes an estimated 60% of patients with nonmalignant pain being prescribed opioids; 20% of which are considered long term users (Tripp, Rak & Burker, 2017). Looking at the history of opioids being prescribed shows even scarier facts. The prescribing rates of opioids to adolescents and young adults has nearly doubled from 1994-2007 (American Society of Addiction Medicine, 2016); the amount of prescription opioids sold and the amount of deaths due to prescription opioids have more than quadrupled since 1999 (American Counseling Association, n.d.). With so many prescriptions being written, it is important to look into why they are being written.

Chronic pain and the use of opioids have gone hand in hand for many years. The experience of chronic pain is subjective and is shaped by numerous factors, including biomedical, psychological, and behavioral. Due to this, it is difficult to diagnose an opioid use disorder for those who have used opioids long term for chronic pain since addiction criteria cannot be applied to them. Previous to the late 1990’s, opioids were rarely used as treatment for chronic pain. When physicians started prescribing opioids for acute pain in cancer patients, pharmacological manufactures started advocating for the use of opioids in non-cancer patients for treatment of chronic pain. From then, the use of opioids for chronic nonmalignant pain greatly increased in which 21-29% of those prescribed opioids for chronic pain long term were considered as misusing opioids and 8-12% of those are experiencing addiction (Tripp, Rak & Burker, 2017). According to Kirk Bowden, an American Counseling Association member who chairs the addiction and substance use disorder program at Rio Salado College in Arizona,  opioids should not be used for chronic pain, instead they are more suitable for acute pain. Long term use of opioids can exacerbate pain as shown by neurobiological studies (Bray, 2017).

With opioid dependence having the possibility of beginning as early as 5 days, it is a serious question on why doctors typically prescribe 30 day supplies (Bray, 2017) following a surgery, trauma, or an exacerbating health condition and usually increased in dosage until the opioid reaches effectiveness (Tripp, Rak & Burker, 2017). “By the end of 30 days, the opioid is not addressing their pain anymore” (Bray, 2017). There are many contributing factors for the rise of opioid use disorder. One of the biggest contributing factors has to do with the prescribing doctors. Nearly 99% of opioid prescribing physicians going beyond the recommended 3 day dosage limit with a quarter of them writing 30 day supplies instead. Dr. Vivek Murthy, a US Surgeon General, stated that most of the opioid abuse are “coming from legally written prescriptions” (American Counseling Association, n.d.). With the focus of opioid addictions coming from those legally written prescriptions, race becomes another contributing factor.

An article written by the American Public Health Association in 2016 called “Is the Prescription Opioid Epidemic a White Problem?” touched on this subject. According to the article, there are a few reasons why opioid addiction has targeted majority of white individuals; marketing, the FDA’s classification of OxyContin, access to insurance coverage and treatment, and the changes in drug policies.

The marketing of buprenorphine, the “office-based opioid maintenance” treatment, is one of the main focuses in the article. Marketing is becoming primarily internet based with this rise of technology, which obviously caters to the computer literate. This in turn caters more towards middle to upper class SES; hence primarily white. These internet service announcements are sponsored by the buprenorphine manufacturers primarily included images of “white professionals” (Hansen & Netherland, 2016). When all demographics are not included, individuals might not feel as if they fit into that category and do not pursue these lines of treatment.

Additionally, the US FDA changed the classification of OxyContin (an opioid) in 1996 to a “minimally addictive pain reliever”. This, in turn, gave the manufacturers of OxyContin, Purdue Pharma, the ability to approach physicians with their medication to treat pain; promotion which was in primarily white states like Maine, Kentucky, and Virginia (Hansen & Netherland, 2016).  With this lessened classification, physicians have fewer restrictions and qualifications that need to be met in order to prescribe the medication.

An individual’s access to insurance coverage and treatment are also huge components of why whites seem to be the target of the opioid epidemic. The United States Census Bureau reported in their 2016 “Health Insurance Coverage in the United States” report that 93.7% of non-Hispanic Whites had health coverage as compared to 89.5% Black, 92.4% Asian, and 84% Hispanic (Barnett & Berchick, 2017). Hansen and Netherland (2016) stated that “opioid prescriptions disproportionately went to White patients… which increased racial differences in opioid use”. This, coupled with changes in drug policies when it comes to opioid drug offenses and their sentencing, can lead to a racially motivated epidemic.

Instead of arresting consumers of nonmedical opioids, policymakers are requesting “reduced sentencing for nonviolent illicit drug offenses” (Hansen & Netherland, 2016). Physicians are being mandated more frequently to use Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs, voluntary take-back programs for unused medication, and Good Samaritan laws that protect individuals who are calling for emergency medication attention from attaining drug charges as well. This does not carry over to Blacks and Latino communities; “many drug addicted [Black and Latino] individuals continue to be incarcerated rather than treated for their addiction” (Hansen & Netherland, 2016). While the use of these programs could be helpful, they need to be applied to all communities and therefore to all races/populations. Another important topic to touch on is why the opioid epidemic seems to be targeting young adults.

According to Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) report on the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (2017),  4.4% of the population (approximately 11.8 million) aged 12 or older have misused opioids within the past year. The main reason reported as to why they misused opioids was to relieve pain (62.3%) but other reasons were also included: to feel good or get high (12.9%), to relax or relieve tension (10.8%), to help with feelings or emotions (3.9%), to help with sleep (3.3%), to experiment or see what it’s like (3%), because they are hooked or have to have the drug (2.1%), to increase or decrease the effects of other drugs (0.9%), or some other reason (0.9%). While the majority of participants reported it was for some sort of pain relief, how they obtained the drug could also be considered misuse. Participants reported to SAMHSA that they attained the opioids in the following ways:  given to them from a friend or relative for free (40.4%), a prescription from one doctor (35.4%), bought from a friend or relative (8.9%), bought from a drug dealer or other stranger (6%), took from a friend or relative without asking (3.7%), prescriptions from more than one doctor (1.4%), stolen from a doctor’s office, clinic, hospital, or pharmacy (0.7%), or some other way (3.4%) (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2017). Within these statistics, it is shown how many different ways young adults are getting their hands on opioids and why they are using them. The trend for continued use is also prevalent; “It is known that youth who use opioids, whether prescribed by a medical practitioner or used non-medically, are likely to continue opioid use in the future” (Osborne, Serdarevic, Crooke, Striley, & Cottler, 2017). The younger an addict starts, the more likely they are to continue use and the more time they have to become addicted. With generations starting earlier and earlier, other societal issues can start to worsen for the future like life expectancies, the quality of the economy, overall public health, etc.

The opioid epidemic is being more popularized with the news and media in order to promote treatment but we need to look at more than just possible treatments. Why are more people getting legal access to opioids, what are the implications on having this access, and why the opioid epidemic is targeting primarily young white Americans are major topics to be studied. This paper took a brief look at these topics in order to better understand what we are dealing with when it comes to the opioid epidemic we have on our hands.


Christina D. Eubanks M.S.

Primary Therapist/Spark of Hope





American Counseling Association (n.d.). What are opioids? Retrieved from:

American Society of Addiction Medicine (2016). Opioid Addiction: 2016 Facts and Figures. Retrieved from:

Barnett, J. and Berchick, E. (2017). Health insurance coverage in the United States: 2016. Retrieved from:

Bray, B. (2017). We’re in danger of losing a generation. Retrieved from:

Hansen, H. and Netherland, J. (2016). Is the prescription opioid epidemic a white problem?  Retrieved from:

Osborne, V., Serdarevic, M., Crooke, H., Striley, C., and Cottler, L. (2017). Non-medical opioid use in youth: Gender differences in risk factors and prevalence. Retrieved from:

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2017). Key substance use and mental health indicators in the United States: Results from the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (HHS Publication No. SMA 17-5044, NSDUH Series H-52). Rockville, MD: Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Retrieved from https://www.

Tripp, C., Rak, E., and Burker, E. (2017). A review of effective treatments for patients with co-occurring chronic pain and opioid addiction. Retrieved from: