Luzerne County Human Services Division holding free event featuring baseball great Darryl Strawberry

By Jennifer Learn-Andes - [email protected]
Strawberry -

Attempting to reach the masses, Luzerne County human service division departments have scheduled a free day of educational sessions and guest speakers, including former Major League Baseball star Darryl Strawberry.

The sessions will include presentations on eating disorders, trauma, gender identity, parenting school-aged children, opioids, the dark web and how to take care of the mind.

When planning the event — called the Luzerne County Cares Community Expo 2018 — division workers brainstormed ways to make it useful and relevant, hoping attendees will become more familiar with services offered by the county and partner organizations in the process, said Human Services Program Director John Alunni.

“We’ve done some focus groups to identify what people want to hear about and learn about,” said Alunni. “We’re very hopeful people take advantage of this opportunity so we can plan a similar event every year.”

Lynn Hill, the division’s head, said she believes there’s “something for everybody,” and attendees will be asked to provide feedback on other session topics they’d like in future events.

“One of the biggest hurdles we have is often that people don’t understand what human services is. Often they think it’s human resources,” said Hill, who oversees the county Mental Health/Developmental Services, Drug and Alcohol, Children and Youth, Area Agency on Aging and Veteran Affairs departments.

According to the event brochure, which is available on the website of the Luzerne-Wyoming Counties System of Care, a partnering organization, at

Strawberry was “one of the most feared home run hitters in the game of baseball.” Plagued with a litany of challenges — addictions, abuse, divorces, cancer and incarceration — he has a new “purpose and passion” helping others transform their lives.

“Darryl Strawberry is described as a legend by many who have been dazzled by the dynamics of his game, the power he possessed at the plate and the story of redemption that continue to bring hope to so many lives,” it says.

Also scheduled to speak are Sam Webb, an Australian actor who co-founded the charitable organization LIVIN aimed at reducing mental health stigma, and Luke Foster, who provided counseling during his military career and recently established a training organization called ChekMate to teach Australian businesses how to deliver no-fuss practical mental health services.

The event will run from 1 to 9 p.m. Sept. 26 at the Woodlands Inn & Resort, 1073 Highway 315 in Plains Township. The extended time period was designed to accommodate different attendee schedules, Alunni said.

Though not required, registration is encouraged by Sept. 10 at Online registrants will receive an extra door prize drawing ticket.

The first presentation on the dark web runs from 2 to 3 p.m.

Several sessions will be available from 3 to 3:45 p.m., with these titles: Grandparents Raising Grandchildren; Self-Medicating Our Way to an Addiction; Targeting Health Disparities in Individuals with Serious Mental Illness; The Power of Peer Support; and Medication Assisted Treatment.

The menu of sessions from 3:45 to 4:30 p.m.: Eating Disorders: What You Need to Know; Opioid Epidemic/Naloxone Training; Understanding Trauma and PTSD: Gender Identity and Affectional Orientation: Did You Just Assume My Gender?; and Minding Your Mind.

A free dinner will be served from 4:30 to 6 p.m., Alunni said.

These sessions will be available from 5:15 to 6 p.m.: Minding Your Mind; Navigating Service Systems; The Power and Importance of Self-Regulation; Recognizing the Signs of a Crisis; Childhood Development: Normal Kids Do Weird Stuff!; and Fathers: The Missing Link.

Foster and Webb will speak from 6 to 7 p.m., followed by awards. Strawberry’s presentation is from 7:30 to 8 p.m., with door prizes, music and a sundae bar and chocolate fountain until 9 p.m.


By Jennifer Learn-Andes

[email protected]

Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.

Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.