Crisis in Paradise: Aspen explores its demons |

Crisis in Paradise: Aspen explores its demons

According to the Aspen Valley Medical Foundation, it’s about time Aspen residents got together to discuss the biggest threat to this community: alcoholism and substance abuse.

Foundation executive director Kris Marsh said the idea was hatched last fall, based on an assessment the nonprofit did about three years ago, identifying substance abuse as a major concern in the Roaring Fork Valley.

And while they were planning the conference, a number of drug-related deaths and suicides in the community early this year reinforced the foundation’s belief that something should be done.

“We feel very much that we’re on the right track, and we can begin to discuss this in a public forum,” Marsh said.

The Divided Self: Crisis in Paradise is being held all day Wednesday at the Hotel Jerome. Beginning at 8:30 a.m., the conference will feature panels of locals and experts in the field of substance abuse, mental health and suicide.

The name, “The Divided Self,” actually comes from a book about schizophrenia by R.D. Laing. Marsh said it’s a metaphor for Aspen.

“We portray to the world this image of beauty, affluence and perfection, and yet, there is this inner self that’s not as perfect as we would appear,” Marsh said. “We have a goal of integrating ourselves, of having that balance between external and internal, between the beautiful and where we’re a little mad.”

For more on the genesis of Wednesday’s conference, see Tuesday’s Aspen Times.

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