SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Behavioral health professionals from across the Ozarks gathered at the Drug Poisoning Summit on Friday, December 3.

The event focused on the number of deaths caused by drug use locally and compared local numbers to national and regional numbers.

Though the main health threat has been the COVID-19 pandemic, that didn’t stop substance abuse from taking its toll across the Ozarks.

David Stoecker, executive director of Better Life and Recovery, says behavioral health is a vitally important topic because so many people are still uneducated on behavioral health disorders.

“I think the more we talk about it, the more mainstream it becomes, maybe that will reduce some of the stigmas and make it easier for people to come forward and ask for help,” said Stoecker.

Marietta Hagan, Cox Health Project Coordinator, was one of the panel speakers at the event.

One of the most important messages Stoecker and Hagan wanted to deliver at the event was that recovery is possible.

“Besides prevention, we focused on looking at the positive sides of recovery,” said Hagan. “We have so many people in our community who are living long-term recovery and are giving back to their community. So, I want people to know that if you have a loved one that is struggling with substance use, there is help, there is support in the community and today we’re getting together to learn how we can do that better together.”

Panelists say they plan to identify gaps in the recovery system and how to address those gaps to better serve the community.