Theodore Bender

Turning Point CEO Dr. Theodore Bender, Ph.D., has been on the job for just over three weeks but he is keenly aware that DeSoto County leads the state in the number of opioid-related deaths.

Robert Long|DTT

Turning around the nation's growing opioid epidemic might be a tall task for the nation's mental health community but it's a battle that can be won, according to Dr. Theodore Bender, Ph.D., the new CEO at Turning Point in Southaven, part of the Addiction Campuses network based in Nashville.

Bender has served in his new capacity for just under one month, but he's impressed by the willingness of the entire Mid-South region to tackle the opioid addiction problem.

"I came here sight unseen," said Bender, during an interview upon Turning Point's two-year anniversary. "I was immediately sold on the culture of Addiction Campuses. I felt confident the whole time it was the right decision. I am blown away by the talent and work perspective of this crew. My vision for the future here is to be a beacon of hope not only for Southaven or DeSoto County, but for the community and for the state. I have met some incredible people who have the same vision. We have a war to fight — the war against addiction. We can't do that unless we are armed with knowledge."

Bender said dialectal behavior therapy is a successful treatment program that has produced amazing results in combatting addiction and transforming lives of addicts.

But to successfully combat opioid dependence will require a sea change in attitude from society. The stigma of opioid dependence must go away. Bender said opioid dependence is no different from other diseases in which chemical and psychological issues come to bear.

"It's a brain disease that takes over areas of the brain," Bender said.

Law enforcement, the public and the medical and mental health communities all play a role, according to Bender.

"We need to mobilize now if we are going to make a difference," Bender said. "We have to unite together as a community. We are fighting against one of the most powerful diseases known to man and billions and billions of dollars of the opioid industry."

Bender received his Ph.D. from Florida State University in 2012. He completed his internship at the Warren Alpert Medical School at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. After obtaining his doctorate, he served as s a postdoctoral fellow for the military suicide research consortium (MSRC).

Robert Lee Long is Community Editor of the DeSoto Times-Tribune. He may be contacted at rlong@desototimestribune.com or at 662-429-6397, Ext. 252.

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