Litchfield County Opiate Task Force (LCOTF) Announces Upcoming Conference: “Reimagining Empathy, A Decade of Unity and Resilience”

– The Featuring Keynote Speakers Johann Hari and Dr. Gabor Maté 

November 30, 2023 | 9AM-5PM


(TORRINGTON, CT) – November 17, 2023 – The Litchfield County Opiate Task Force (LCOTF), is pleased to announce the upcoming conference: “Reimagining Empathy, A Decade of Unity and Resilience” on November 30, 2023. The conference will feature internationally renowned thought leaders, Johann Hari and Dr. Gabor Maté and is designed to explore the vital role of empathy, hope, and wellness in addressing the challenges of the modern world.

This event marks a significant milestone, commemorating ten years of triumphs and trials of battling the national opioid epidemic in western Connecticut. The first conference of its kind in this region, “Reimagining Empathy: a Decade of Unity and Resilience” will provide attendees with a full day and a full range of timely topics, such as speaking with loved ones about their addiction, harm reduction tactics, and the role of human empathy in this crisis.

“Over the last ten years, the LCOTF has demonstrated a steadfast commitment to addressing the overdose crisis and root causes of addiction in our community, but we are currently witnessing a “crisis fatigue” in our culture where many people are having a difficult time finding space in their own exhausted spirits to know where to even start to help,” says Maria Coutant Skinner, LCSW, Co-chair of the LCOTF and CEO of McCall Behavior Health Network. “We want to continue empathizing with the numbers of our fellow humans who are suffering in all forms and this conference offers us a moment to rest, understand more deeply and make space for our humanity to be restored.”

Opening Keynote Speaker Johann Hari, award-winning British journalist, playwright and NYT best-selling author, will open the event with a thought-provoking talk on “Accessing Empathy” and the power of connection, followed by a fireside chat with LCOTF Co-chair Maria Coutant Skinner, LCSW following by a book signing opportunity.

Afternoon Keynote Speaker Dr. Gabor Maté, world renowned expert and bestselling author, will join for a live, virtual presentation and Q&A titled “Trauma, Illness, and Healing in a Toxic Culture” which underscores the significance of integrating emotional and psychological experiences into the understanding of physiological functioning, and highlight how societal priorities focused on material pursuits jeopardize well-being and health.

“This conference will provide hope and a renewal of empathy and energy to all those who work directly with substance use patients in hospitals and medical settings as the Opiate Epidemic and an increase in substance use in all of our communities brings more patients through our doors who need the life saving care we can provide,” says Tom Narducci, LCSW, Co-chair of the LCOTF and Administrative Director Behavioral Health for Charlotte Hungerford Hospital.

Key Highlights of the Conference include:

Premier of The Empathy Effect: A compelling film that unveils the profound work of the LCOTF in the picturesque northwest corner of Connecticut. Through the lens of this captivating documentary, guests will embark on a journey that explores the extraordinary impact of empathy in fostering unity and resilience within our communities

Keynote Address by Johann Hari: Join us as award-winning British journalist and best-selling author Johann Hari opens the event with a thought-provoking talk on “Accessing Empathy.”

Film Screening and Breakout Sessions: Guests will immerse themselves in the documentary Uprooting Addiction and participate in breakout sessions like “Mindfulness and Sound Healing,” “Art Therapy,” “Compassionate Policing through Deflection,” “Talking with a Love One About Their Addiction,” and “Overdose First Aid” to discover practical tools for enhancing empathy and wellness.

Empathy in Action Panel: In this thought-provoking panel Liz Evans, Mark Jenkins, and Lauren Pristo will explore the connection between empathy, harm reduction, and the frontier of hope and healing for people with an addiction. The panelists will demonstrate how harm reduction strategies and philosophies are not just practical approaches to addressing substance use but are manifestations of empathy in action.

Afternoon Keynote with Dr. Gabor Maté: Dr. Maté will give a live, virtual presentation and Q&A titled “Trauma, Illness, and Healing in a Toxic Culture.”

Event Details:

Date: November 30th, 2023

Location: Warner Theatre, Torrington, CT


8:00 AM Check-in

9:00 AM Keynote Speaker Johann Hari Presents

11:30 AM and 2:00PM – Johann Hari Book signing and breakout sessions

2:00 PM – 5:00 PM – Panel discussion on Harm Reduction as Empathy in Action and Dr. Gabor Mate join’s virtually to close out the day with a live presentation and Q&A opportunity.

Audience: This Event is Open to the Public

Credits: 6 CECs are available and are approved by NASW CT with reciprocity from CCB-CT. CECs are valid in CT, MA, RI, and VT.

To Register:

Visit A limited number of scholarship tickets are available if cost is a barrier.

About The Litchfield County Opiate Task Force (LCOTF):

The Litchfield County Opiate Task Force (LCOTF) was formed in December of 2013 following an alarming increase of overdose deaths in the local community. The LCOTF is led by co-chairs of the McCall Behavioral Health Network and Charlotte Hungerford Hospital and since it’s founding nearly a decade ago has grown to include more than 60 active members representing all sectors in the community, including: behavioral health providers, medical providers, people with lived experience and their families, government officials, law enforcement, first responders, faith-based community, social services, youth-serving organizations, volunteers, and more. Follow on social media: IG @opiatetaskforce or on FB @thelitchfieldcountyopiatetaskforce


About McCall Behavioral Health Network:

Serving families and individuals of all ages across western Connecticut for 50+ years, McCall Behavioral Health Network is operating proof of the power of connection. We’re a diverse network of experienced, specialized, and highly trained behavioral healthcare professionals. Equally important, we’re passionate and compassionate people who are committed to helping individuals, families and communities access resources, overcome adversity, build resilience, and achieve wellness. A network that heals. A community who cares. That’s McCall Behavioral Health Network.


Marisa Mittelstaedt

Director of Development & Marketing

Mobile:  860.202.4916