SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — We continue our Courageous Conversation on the heroin and opiod epidemic in the Ozarks, with community efforts to educate people on the dangers of using heroin.
The Community Partnership of the Ozarks is just one of the community efforts in place to educate people about the overdose epidemic.
Rikki Barton, Director of the Regional Support Center for Community Partnership of the Ozarks says, “We really look to educate to reduce any availability of the drugs but also to decrease any community norms that would be favorable to drug use.”
Barton says a coalition called Ozarks Fighting Back was formed 25 years ago to address issues of substance abuse related consequences.
“5 out of 6 heroin abusers started with prescription painkillers and so we really think it’s important because that’s most likely youth would start there.”
Barton formed a coalition called the 417 Squad, a group of teens that represent the six high schools in Springfield. Squad members give voice to Springfield’s young people in the effort to counter youth violence and drugs.
“They decided they wanted to do something about it and really educate the community.”
Barton says the 417 Squad created a PSA to educate their peers. They were also shocked to learn that heroin came in a pill form and that it was much easier for teens to take and abuse.
“We really want people to be shocked and therefore have that conversation with their kids to make sure their kids are away from that drug use, and not going towards that prescription pill or opioid abuse that may lead to a heroin addiction.”
Barton tells us youth who would’ve used prescription opioids are more likely to make a transition to heroin then someone who doesn’t and that’s because it’s all in that one opioid family.
“So if they are educating their peers about that piece hopefully that will curb any kind of abuse.”
Dr. Justin Herrell with the Springfield School District has been on the board of Ozarks Fighting Back and his son was a member of the 417 Squad.
“It gave him a great opportunity to do things and to see the impact negative choices he could make as well as the impact a strong voice of a good voice could make,” says Herrell.
Herrell tells us this has given his son the opportunity to help make a difference in others in his age group to see the power in civil service. Herrell says the opportunity was two fold.
“In some of these situations, one bad choice has life altering consequences.”
You can go back to any time frame and the concern for drug usage with youth has always been there says Herrell.
“So is it worse now? Is it better now? I don’t know if i have a litmus test to really measure that. Because if it effects one kid, it’s bad.”
Herrell says anytime you have a child with an opportunity to make a destructive decision, there’s a concern.
“Every time we get the chance to send the message making a good decision and about the negative impact these negative decisions can have were going to utilize that.”
You can read all of our special reports on The Quiet Epidemic here