Friday, February 10, 2017

Proactive Substance Abuse Initiative underway in Tri-Lakes Area

Skaggs Foundation, CoxHealth partner for community-wide project

More than 70 area leaders gathered at Cox Medical Center Branson Thursday morning to begin a community-wide discussion focused on how to best address the complex issue of substance abuse in our community.

The stakeholders meeting was part of a project known as the Substance Abuse Initiative. The Substance Abuse Initiative has been made possible by a partnership between Skaggs Foundation, CoxHealth and prevention consultant Dr. William Geary.

"Our end goal is to have a collaborative of community members and professionals who feel comfortable and informed and equipped to be proactive about substance abuse prevention rather than reacting to it,” Dr. Geary said. “Our goal is to equip community leaders with the data and skills they need to oversee a coordinated substance abuse effort.”

“Through this initiative, we will assess the complexity of local substance abuse, determine gaps in current services, identify community resources and make a concentrated effort to best address this complex and troubling issue,” explained Marietta Hagan, who has been hired by CoxHealth to serve as the initiative’s project coordinator.

Dr. Geary has more than 18 years of hands-on experience with helping communities choose, implement and evaluate best practices in substance abuse prevention. He said Stone and Taney counties are in a great position to begin this initiative.

“The overall health of your community seems good, even compared to the rest of the state,” Dr. Geary said. “I’ve been in communities that are in crisis state. This community is not in crisis state. Being in this position lets you focus on where you want to be five years down the road. We hope to help you build on what you already have so that you are not only avoiding a crisis, but you are able to push the envelope and improve quality of life throughout your community.”

Dr. Geary said what impressed him the most during the stakeholders meeting was that nearly 100 percent of leaders who were invited were in attendance Thursday.

“You don’t understand how rare that is,” he said. “That tells me that at least a portion of this community wants to be engaged in this process and that means they are bringing passion with them to the table.”

Those in attendance included leaders from area cities, schools, law enforcement agencies, health departments and more. Missouri Hospital Association President and CEO Herb Kuhn also attended the meeting. He described the Substance Abuse Initiative as a wonderful community-driven model that is bringing all of the right people to the table.
“These are the type of conversations that need to be taking place across the state,” he said. 

“At Skaggs Foundation, our mission is to improve health and wellness throughout Stone and Taney counties,” said Skaggs Foundation President Meghan Connell. “About two years ago, the Skaggs Foundation grant committee was reviewing grant applications and noticed a huge influx of requests for substance abuse projects. We knew there was problem but that really brought it to light. Last November, we awarded a Skaggs Legacy Endowment grant to CoxHealth to spearhead this Substance Abuse Initiative. We believe wholeheartedly a concentrated prevention effort will impact our community today and for years to come.”

The team will be collecting data and conducting interviews as part of a community assessment. A follow-up meeting will be held this spring to review the assessment and plan next steps.

For more information about Skaggs Foundation or Skaggs Legacy Endowment grants, visit or call 417-348-8998.

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