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ECU Health welcomed more than 50 exhibitors and 100 guests to the 12th annual Mental Health Expo designed to connect community members with important resources on mental health and substance use.

The expo, held at Eastern AHEC in Greenville, was a free event for individuals, family members, caregivers and providers. Three featured presentations from experts covered various mental health and addiction topics.

Duania Roberts with the behavioral health team at ECU Health Medical Center gave a presentation titled “Balanced Being” which tackled stress reduction techniques. James Lally, a certified holistic Registered Nurse at ECU Health Medical Center, spoke on understanding the nervous system to better understand yourself.

Dr. David Ryan, an obstetrician-gynecologist with ECU Health as well as a clinical assistant professor of Addiction Medicine at Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University, presented on “Turning the Tides of Addiction.” There, he spoke on reducing stigma around addiction and understanding it as a disease. He said it’s also crucial to be familiar with and break down stigmas associated with life-saving medications for addiction treatment.

He said events like the Mental Health Expo help communities understand what is happening around them when it comes to mental health and substance use.

“There has been a lot of shame and a lot of discomfort talking about mental health,” Dr. Ryan said. “I think the fact that we’re able to have these conversations at an event like this helps us reduce the stigma and bring these issues to the surface.”

Glenn Simpson, service line administrator for behavioral health at ECU Health said getting exhibitors to come together in one place for the event is vital for the community to take in all the resources available to them in eastern North Carolina.

“This is really what we need – what this community needs,” Simpson said. “We have providers here. We have Trillium Health Resources, which manages Medicaid and does so much to provide resources to this region. We have the 988 Helpline team here. If someone needs some help with behavioral health and they don’t know who to call, just pick up the phone or text 9-8-8.”

He also said it was an exciting opportunity to share information about the upcoming state-of-the-art, 144-bed behavioral health hospital in Greenville, slated to open in 2025.

Lillie Malpass, executive director of the Pitt County Coalition on Substance Use, participated with her organization in the event and said it was a great opportunity to connect with more community members and other organizations.

“Even among other organizations, we’re getting connected with other great organizations and learning what they do and they’re learning about what we do – that’s so important,” Malpass said. “It’s about exchanging information and getting out of our silos – we’re prevention and meeting with recovery organizations, treatment organizations – it’s great to come together and see how we can all work together.”