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A state senator, district judge, district attorney and the director of prevention services for the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (ODMHA) will join Oklahoma City attorney Reggie Whitten for a presentation on addiction and substance abuse Tuesday [AUG. 25] at East Central University.

The multimedia presentation will begin at 9:30 a.m. in the Estep Multimedia Center in the University Center. It will be open to the public at no charge and will be geared toward substance abuse counselors as well as educating students.

A panel including State Sen. Harry E. Coats Jr., District Judge Tom Landrith, Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater and Jessica Hawkins of the ODMHA will answer questions following Whitten's presentation. He will speak about his son Brandon, who died in a motorcycle accident in 2002 at age 25. He had become addicted to prescription medications and alcohol.

From that tragedy, Whitten, his wife Rachelle and her brother, Robert Newman, founded the Whitten-Newman Foundation, a charitable organization which is based in Oklahoma City.

Part of the foundation's mission is to help prevent young people from abusing drugs and alcohol. It directed the fundraising efforts in January of Crystal Darkness Oklahoma, the statewide campaign to fight the epidemic of methamphetamines.

The presentation has been approved for two hours of continuing education credit for licensed professional counselors (LPC), licensed marriage and family therapists (LMFT), Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselors (LADC) and Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselors (CADC).

Sen. Harry E. Coats Jr. of Seminole was elected to the Oklahoma State Senate in 2002 and serves Senate District #28 which includes all or portions of Lincoln, Oklahoma, Pottawatomie and Seminole Counties. He is chair of the Business and Labor Standing Committee and is a member of the Energy and Environment, Transportation and Education Appropriations Committees.

Coates is the owner of Harry E. Coates Company Inc., a construction consultant firm that operates in the central and eastern United States.

He is a graduate of Oklahoma City Southwestern College, the University of Central Oklahoma and Southwest Technical Institute.

Jessica Hawkins is the director of prevention services for the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. She oversees the state's prevention portion of the federal substance abuse prevention and treatment block grant as well as other federal prevention grant programs.

Hawkins is the chairperson for the Governor's Task Force on the Prevention of Underage Drinking and is a member of the Oklahoma Suicide Prevention Council. She has been with the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services for more than three years. She previously was a prevention manager with the California Division of the American Cancer Society.

District Judge Tom Landrith of Ada has presided over the 22nd Judicial District since 1995. He initiated the Pontotoc County Drug Court in 1997 and in 2008 received the Oklahoma Bar Association Trail Blazer Award for the Drug Court. In 2001 he was named the Oklahoma Trial Lawyers Association Outstanding District Judge of the Year.

Landrith was in private practice from 1976 to 1995 and also served as special district judge from 1977 to 1979.

He is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma, served in the U.S. Air Force for four years and earned a juris doctorate from the OU School of Law in 1976.

District Attorney David Prater started his career as a Cleveland County deputy sheriff at age 19. At age 20, he became the youngest cadet ever to graduate from the Norman Police Academy. He was a Master Police Officer and a member of the tactical unit, underwater rescue and recovery ream and the pistol team. He was awarded more than 20 commendations.

He left the police department to complete a law enforcement administration degree at the University of Oklahoma and began law school at OU in 1991. From 1993 until 2001, Prater was an assistant district attorney in Oklahoma County under Bob Macy and an assistant attorney general in the Grand Jury Unit under Attorney General Drew Edmondson.

Before he was elected Oklahoma County's district attorney, Prater maintained a private law practice in Oklahoma City.

Reggie Whitten will talk about his son and how his addictions impacted his family and others.

The Whitten-Newman Foundation established the annual Brandon Whitten Scholarship to provide four years of tuition, books and certain living expenses for students at any Oklahoma college or university.

The Whittens later decided one way to prevent drug and alcohol abuse was to get youngsters involved in science. They expanded the foundation's purpose to advance and fund educational and scientific opportunities try to touch the lives of as many young people as possible. The foundation also funds charitable causes and works to enhance the lives of children with life-threatening medical conditions.

Whitten has a law degree from OU and is a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers, the top 1 percent of active lawyers in any state. He was included in the Oklahoma Business Monthly article, "2002 Oklahoma Lawyers Guilty of Being the Best in Their Fields," and Oklahoma Super Lawyers magazine, which features the top 5 percent of attorneys in Oklahoma.

The Journal Record newspaper named him the 2008 Leadership in Law Honoree and he was the 2008 recipient of the Jefferson Society Award given by the Oklahoma Association for Justice.

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