BRANSON, Mo. – Leaders from Stone and Taney Counties came together Thursday to help combat substance abuse in their respective communities.
A drug summit was held in Branson to update community members on a new drug-prevention initiative started by the Skaggs Legacy Foundation.
Among the dozens of community leaders in attendance was Lt. Shawn DeBarr, Corps Officer of the Salvation Army in Branson.
“Sometimes you can feel that you’re working at this alone,” he says, “That the infrastructure and opportunities aren’t there to get them the help they need.”
DeBarr says the summit showed him that might not be the case after all. Various organizations, including the Salvation Army, took time to share their respective missions and how community members could help.
“It’s not just a simple thing of identifying the concerns and saying how terrible it is,” says DeBaar, “but stakeholders and community members [showed me] they are willing to see this addressed.”
Drug prevention expert, Dr. William Geary, who was hired as a consultant by the Skaggs Legacy Foundation, says Branson has many of the necessary tools to help those struggling with drug addiction.
However, he says, until this new initiative began, many of those organizations were unaware of one another.
“I think the good thing here is it was pretty obvious, out of the gate, that this was a group of leaders that were anxious to do something,” he says.
Geary says the area isn’t experiencing a “crisis,” unlike some of the communities he has assisted over the last two decades.
He believes the willingness by the area to take a proactive approach will allow them to implement a successful long-term plan.
“It allows you to be more thoughtful,” he says. “It allows you to get through the things you need to get through quickly, quickly, but it also lets you tap the breaks when you need to and give things more thought”
Geary says his recommendations from the community are coming, but he wants to wait until he’s had in-depth conversation with the organizations that will be implementing them.
“I have some [ideas] in the back of my mind I think would work,” he says, “but it really, in the end, it’s their decision.”
Until then, it appears the first phase of the process is making an impact.
“This has reaffirmed for myself and the Salvation Army that there is a willingness in the community to address those needs,” says DeBaar.
The next step of the process will be early next month with the use of a community survey.