Springfield community leaders discuss recent surge of drug overdoses

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo.– Springfield, according to police, saw 20 overdoses, including two deaths, from Wednesday, Oct. 16, to Oct. 18.

“The way I say it is dead people never find recovery so we need to do things to keep people healthy and alive long enough so that they can find recovery,” David Stoecker said, Better Life in Recovery executive director

Because of this spike, the emergency Springfield Overdose Summit (SOS) was set up at The Well in downtown Springfield to allow the community leaders to talk about their efforts to prevent another overdose spike and to let community members ask questions.

Approximately 100 people showed up to hear the panel talk about the overdose spike. One of those attendants was Kieth Boydstun.

“Mom got sick, she was on kidney failure. She had opiates, she had hydrochloridon, she had percocet, well she ended up passing away,” Boydstun said.

Boydstun said he was cleaning his mother’s room “And then I was just hurt and in pain, started taking opiates. Next thing I formed an addiction, those opiates weren’t good enough for me, and then I moved on.”

His past experience is the reason he is at the summit.

“In case I encounter anybody that was in my situation,” Boydstun said.

Brandon Lien, the outreach minister for The Well, told his story of drug abuse and how he now uses his past to help others.

“This is near and dear to my heart. I am a product of recovery, I’ve gone through recovery, I did a yearlong discipleship program myself after ruining my own life,” Lien said. “And so years later now of course now God has restored my life and placed me in a pastoral position so I can help other people with this message of hope.”

Tom Van De Burg, Greene County’s chief forensic officer, was the first to speak out of the four community leaders on stage. Van De Burg gave statistics that showed Springfield had 124 overdoses in 2017, 96 in 2018, and 63 this year.

Van De Burg says he heard on the police scanner five different overdoses in 40 minutes during the spike and that addicts take a risk with each narcotic purchase.

“Who knows what you’re getting when you’re buying baggies off the street,” Van De Burg said. “Every time you get a new batch, you don’t know.”

The Saint Louis County Public Health has tips to help protect yourself from infection and overdose:

  • Don’t use alone.
  • Don’t share or reuse needles or any other items, including cotton, cookers, ties or water.
  • It’s not safe to reuse needles, but if you do, flush the syringe with cold, clean water, disinfect it with bleach for two minutes, then flush again with cold, clean water.
  • Call 911 if someone is overdosing. Missouri’s 911 Good Samaritan law protects you and the person overdosing from arrest.

Clay Goddard, the director of the Springfield-Greene County Health Department, touched a lot on how removing the addiction stigma would be a step in the right direction.

“I would say that addiction is not a moral failure. Addiction is a disease and until we’re willing to treat it as a disease as a community, we’re not going to be able to get through this,” Goddard said. “So it’s really changing our viewpoint and that’s a challenging message for some to accept, but I think it’s necessary if we’re going to take the next step.”

The Health Department is currently looking for no-cost Narcan supplies.

In the meantime, Preferred Family Healthcare and Better Life in Recovery have supplies on-hand.

Ken McClure, Mayor of Springfield, was complimentary of the first responders during the overdose spike.

“Be grateful for our first responders. Law enforcement, EMS, people like Tom [Van De Burg], people that work on this every day,” McClure said. “We have just seen them in action over the last couple of weeks. How many fatalities we have avoided I think is strongly due to the work that they have done.”

Lynn Morris, a Missouri state representative, spoke about the coalition he began to try and help people struggling with drug addiction.

“I started a coalition five years ago, Christian County Coalition on substance and misuse, and I started that because I was over at an event in Chadwick, Missouri, and it was a great big clinical event,” Morris said. “And I listened to the sheriff and deputy who talked about two young boys who were high school age who had skipped high school and was shooting up at the side of the county road in the middle of the afternoon. Should have been in school, shouldn’t have been shooting up with injectables.”

Josh Hawley, United States senator, spoke to the room via video chat and said he would be doing what he could at a federal level to stop the drug flow.

One of the things that I’m going to be doing is calling on the drug enforcement agencies, the federal DEA, to send to the region,” Hawley said. “One of the things I’m very concerned about is that China has been sending lots of fentanyl into the United States and they have been doing it with the cooperation of drug smuggling and drug trafficking.”

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, the Behavioral Health Response has a 24-hour crisis line that can be called at 1-800-811-4760. Free treatment options can be found at MissouriOpioidSTR.org.

Here is a list of agencies that help those with Opioid Use Disorder:

Treatment ClinicAddressPhoneWebsite
Burrell Behavioral HealthTransitions 323 E. Grand
Springfield, MO 65807
417-761-5600www.burrellcenter.com
Family Counseling Center 1015 Lanton Rd.
West Plains, MO
65775
417-256-2570www.fccinc.org
Lafayette House – Family Self Help Group1809 S. Connor Ave., Joplin, MO 64804800-416-1772https://lafayettehouse.org
Ozark Center1105 E. 32nd St. Suite 2, Joplin, MO 64804417-347-7730freemanhealth.com/ozarkcenter
Preferred Family Healthcare2411 W. Catalpa St., Springfield, MO 65109417-887-4343https://pfh.org/missouri
Southeast Missouri Behavioral Health (SEMO)1501 Kingshighway, suite 5, Rolla, MO 65401573-364-8511http://www.semobh.org

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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