Branson area agencies form Opioid Overdose Response Team

Branson. Mo. -- Branson area agencies are coming together to help people struggling with opioid addictions.

The Overdose Response Team is an effort to reduce the number of opioid overdoses and related deaths.

"In our ER, where they were seeing maybe one to two a week are now seeing overdoses daily and sometimes multiple," Stone & Taney Counties Substance Use Initiative Project Coordinator Marietta Hagan said.

It's because of the increase in drug overdoses that several Branson agencies are joining forces.

"People in the community are seeing us work together. They're like, 'Wow, all these people want us to get the help we need,'" Burrell Behavioral Health Substance Use Disorder Liaison Rachel Hudson said.

The partnership was formed in January 2019 between the Branson Police Department and the Missouri Coalition for Community Behavioral Healthcare through Burrell Behavioral Health, the Stone and Taney Counties Substance Use Initiative and the Combined Ozarks Multi-Jurisdictional Enforcement Team (COMET).

"The police department, we have a lot of the information on where there are people who need help. Burrell has the help. Why not put the two together?" Assistant Police Chief Eric Schmitt said.

Each week, the team meets with people who have recently experienced an opioid overdose, or people they've identified as being "at risk" of overdosing.

"No one is exempt from being affected by any kind of substance use or mental health concern. It's someone's mother, father, sister, daughter. They are a person, worthy of help," Hudson said.

Hudson says during the visits, they talk with people about their addiction and connect them with resources that can help lead them through recovery.

"There are a lot of different steps. [We] help coordinate that care to make it less intimidating," Hudson said.

The response team also provides people with a drug that reverses an overdose. They also educate people on how to use it to save their loved one's life.

"If it's the person who's struggling with opioid use, maybe they can teach their family," Hagan said.

Hudson says while people may not be responsive to the help the first time they're visited by the Response Team, they continue to make those connections.

"We don't give up," Hudson said.

They say it's the personal connection and individualized care that is already making a difference.

"Sometimes people don't want to reach out, but they might be responsive if you take it to them and show them that you care about them as a person," Hagan said.

Hudson says she works with other communities throughout the region to fight prescription drug abuse, but the Opioid Response Team in Branson is the only one of its kind in the area.