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Conversations with the Council featuring Rachel Docekal, President & CEO of Hanley Foundation

Passion it's just one of the words you could use to describe Dr. Rachel Docekal and her dedication to making a difference in the lives of people battling addiction. She is a transformational leader looking past what is present to what is possible in her role as CEO of the Hanley Foundation. "We are changing the conversation around addiction, making sure that people understand that it is a disease that can affect any one of us. We are creating a new narrative around mental health challenges, so people don't suffer in silence. We are helping to overcome the stigma associated with both."

Hanley Foundation's proactive approach to saving lives through substance abuse prevention inspires once-difficult conversations between parents and their children to help kids navigate societal pressures. "Working in collaboration with school districts across Florida, we are making a difference in the lives of tens of thousands of children. Providing parents and teachers with interactive evidence-based workbooks designed to spark dialogue around the dangers of alcohol and drugs is incredibly impactful." As Rachel shared, delaying a child's first use of alcohol can help reduce the risk of alcohol-related problems and promote healthy development and decision-making. "We are raising awareness and positively influencing attitudes. This is more important than ever, realizing that today's young people deal with harmful social media, bullying, and peer pressure daily. We remind them that alcohol is not an escape."

Another core pillar Rachel and the Hanley Foundation team dedicate themselves to is recovery. Often people in recovery get sober but then feel lost as there is no action plan to help integrate them back into society. However, Rachel's vision is to create opportunities using a state appropriation to create a Recovery Resource Center that will serve as a hub offering job and life training skills. "We need to build a better mousetrap as it relates to helping people stay sober. Treatment has about a 25% effective rate. They get out of treatment and say now what. We want to establish a strong recovery community and create a workforce where one did not exist before. This helps address one of our county's biggest challenges, especially for those companies who were part of the great migration to Florida. They are bringing their people from up north or recruiting talent. We need to present them with a homegrown workforce that is capable. Having a recovery system is vital to their success and ours because someone who is in school or has a job is twice as likely to stay sober as someone who is not." 

A solution-oriented person Rachel is proud of the work she is a part of as an eleven-year member of the Economic Council of Palm Beach County. "I got involved with the Economic Council because they are a policy organization. They can look at problems systemically. Solving problems is tremendously appealing to me. I'm lucky enough to have a voice, and I have a responsibility to use it."

With both an undergraduate and a Doctorate in education, Rachel takes pride in being a former Chair of the Dwyer Awards which celebrates excellence in education. This event is May 1, 2023 and Hanley Foundation is the presenting sponsor. "I am passionate about education. Education and innovation go hand in hand. Innovation is driven by education. For our community to grow and thrive, we need to have the best education for our community members." Which Rachel hopes will encourage graduates to look for employment in their own backyard. "Palm Beach County needs to grow and keep our talent. With 180,000 students in our public schools and five major colleges/universities, we should be able to fill every job with a highly trained individual. Some of the most innovative business leaders nationally reside in Palm Beach County. We have a tremendous opportunity to form public-private partnerships that address issues in a way that far exceeds the status quo. We must collaborate and strategize together."

Strategy is a critical element of any organization's success. As a forward-thinking leader, Rachel takes tremendous pride in shaping the blueprint that guides the Hanley Foundation. Her inspirational style allows her to motivate others toward their shared purpose, which brings out the best in her staff. "There are many times that I see something special that the person can't see for him or herself. I love to tap into that potential and develop those strengths. It's highly rewarding and creates inherent energy and passion among the team. I listen. I include. I empower through inclusivity. It's the method to my madness. Once I can get them to do their job successfully, I encourage them to be looking ahead so we can learn, grow and succeed as one."

Her happiness comes from her family and their love of the water. Her husband, Steve, is  Operations and Maintenance Director for TraumaHawk Helicopter Life Flight. They married twenty-three years ago after meeting on a blind date. They have two daughters, Carly and Lilly. "We've taught our daughters to be kind. We have a big magnet that says, "Be Kind, No Exceptions," When they were little and misbehaving, that magnet would sit by their bed at night."

The lesson was learned, and she's proud of the young women they've become. Now she treasures the quality time she spends with each of them cooking, shopping, and being the cool mom jamming out to Taylor Swift so she can blend in at the concert. "My daughters told me I had to learn all the lyrics. It's a prerequisite for me going." And like every other challenge, she embraces it.

Professionally she will always face naysayers, but when negativity comes her way, like Swift, she "Shakes It Off," thanks to the wise advice she received during a heartwarming encounter with the Dalai Lama." I asked him about something worrying me, and he said, "If you can't control the situation, why worry about it? You can't control it. And, if you can control it, why worry?" I'm not suggesting that I never worry; however, I remember to put situations into context and realize that the only behavior I can change is my own."

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