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Alcohol and prescription drugs are the top two recommended areas of focus for an initiative looking to combat substance abuse in Taney and Stone counties.

For a period of six months, researchers worked with 40 local organizations and interviewed 80 community members, including the Branson emergency personnel, to collect the data and lay the foundation for a Substance Abuse Initiative.

“This document will essentially be our road map moving forward and help guide our community in preventing and reducing substance abuse,” Marietta Hagan, Substance Abuse Initiative project coordinator, said in a press release.

Formally initiated in November, 2016, the SAI is funded by the Skaggs Foundation and support from Cox Medical Center in Branson. Working with a consultant who specializes in prevention, Hagan said the assessment used a variety of survey techniques to collect data.

“The assessment was completed by doctor William Geary. Hagan said. “He’s a consultant and a prevention specialist and he’s been working with me the last couple of months to complete this assessment. We’ve used surveys, key informant interviews and the stakeholder summit as a way to collect some data.

“Basically this assessment includes his recommendation on how the community should move forward to address substance abuse issues.”

While alcohol and prescription medication were the top two results, Hagan said marijuana wasn’t far behind as the third most popular answer.

“Right now we’re going to focus on the top two,” she said. “Because if you get too spread out you can’t really do a good job to make a real effect. So we’re going to keep marijuana on our radar.”

The study also examined the top three risk and protective factors in Taney and Stone counties. Risk factors encourage substance abuse while protective factors do the opposite.

According to the report, the top three risk factors are family conflict or management, socioeconomic status and availability. The top three protective factors are schools or a school system, strong families and a faith-based community.

“Those were some really strong protective factors for the community and will work well with us as we move forward,” Hagan said.

Recommendations outlined by the assessment include developing and monitoring key partnerships with individuals and organizations who can provide initiative growth; develop a data dashboard for community and local organizational use; focus on evidence-based programs; use an effective evaluation that focuses on process, outputs and outcomes; introduce and grow research-based programming in the schools to address youth and family needs; and introduce and grow research-based practices for intervention and treatment initiatives based in the community.

“From this point on, we will be coordinating all of our efforts around these recommendations,” Hagan said in a release. “Preventing and reducing substance abuse is no easy task and it will take time and effort; however, with the support of the communities within Stone and Taney counties, this project will have a positive impact for generations to come.”

According to Hagan, with the completion of the assessment, SAI can move onto the next step in what she called the “strategic preventive framework.”

“The next two phases are planning and implementation,” Hagan said. “We’ll meet with individuals and groups from around the six recommendations from around the assessment and we’ll work with them — because this really needs to be community led — because if there’s no community buy-in, there’s no sustainability.”

Hagan said work on the next two phases has already begun.

“We have met with some of the local schools and met with a group of superintendents about the possibility of implementing some evidence-based programming into the schools,” she said. “We’ve taken their feedback and we’ll be working one-on-one with the schools who are interested in how we can implement that.

To read the full report, visit SkaggsFoundation.org, and click on “Programs.” To learn more about the Substance Abuse Initiative and learn about local resources, contact Hagan at 417-335-7333 or email Marietta.Hagan@CoxHealth.com.

“We’re excited and we want to keep the momentum going,” Hagan said. “We understand it’s a long process — there are no easy fixes — and we have to be flexible. So as we move into the next phases we want to move with consideration but we don’t want to lose the momentum that we’ve gained.”

Source: Branson Tri Lakes News

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