In an effort to reduce the number of opioid overdoses and related deaths in Branson, several area agencies have come together to form a regional Overdose Response Team that is now assisting those impacted by substance use and misuse. This 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).
Each week, the Overdose Response Team follows up with individuals who recently experienced an overdose or have been identified as being at high-risk. The team consists of a Branson police officer, a Branson Police Department chaplain and a Burrell substance use liaison as well as a member from a peer support group.
“The team provides individuals with information on harm reduction and overdose prevention, treatment and detox resources and hope for recovery,” said Burrell Substance Use Disorder Liaison, Rachel Hudson. “We try to build a relationship with the person and let them know that they are valuable and worthy of help.”
Individuals in active opioid addiction may receive a naloxone kit in order to equip themselves or their family and friends with the life-saving medication needed during an overdose. These naloxone kits were made possible through a partnership between Faith Community Health and the Substance Use Initiative.
Communities across the nation with these types of teams are seeing a decrease in opioid overdoses, including Branson who has seen a noticeable decline in the frequency and the overall number of overdoses.
“We are beginning to see positive and tangible results in the community from the efforts of the Overdose Response Team,” said Branson Police Department Sgt. Andy Yarnell. “I believe this partnership has been the key factor in this success. Investigators have gained information that has led to the arrest and prosecution of drug distributors and numerous people have obtained resources, treatment and/or care, critical to their recovery.”
CoxHealth Project Coordinator for the Substance Use Initiative Marietta Hagan says this team is uniquely equipped to address an important, though often overlooked, step in the process.
“Connecting people to treatment and recovery support are essential and that is what this team is doing,” said Hagan.