Gov. Mike Parson joined Jim Carroll, the White House director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), his senior advisor for rural affairs, Anne Hazlett, and U.S. Rep. Jason Smith for a roundtable discussion at Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau Feb. 19.
About 20 local leaders in health, mental health, and law enforcement also participated in the discussion, including recovering addicts.
The roundtable focused on three topics from ONDCP’s Rural Community Action Guide: workforce development, rural healthcare needs, and engaging law enforcement in addiction.
ONDCP and 18 rural partners launched the Rural Community Action Guide to provide leaders in rural communities with background information, recommended action steps, and promising practices around several key topics related to drug addiction. The guide is intended to educate rural leaders on the challenges of addiction and empower them to take action in their communities.
“I appreciate the director being here today, and his senior advisor also [being] here today in Southeast Missouri; how important that was for Cape Girardeau and the surrounding areas,” Parson told members of the media following the roundtable. He also thanked Congressman Smith for his leadership.
“I’m just thankful they’re here in Southeast Missouri understanding the rural crisis that we have, and some of the issues we’re facing, and what we’re doing to move ahead to resolve some of these issues,” the governor continued. Federal financial aid has been “a big plus” for some of the local programs that are dealing with these issues, he added.
It is hoped that with the state and federal government joining forces, greater advances can be made fighting opioid addiction, prescription drug abuse, mental health issues and work-force development. In addition, it is important that broadband Internet be made available to rural Missouri to make such things as telemedicine available.
“It’s clear that Pres. Trump believes that these are local issues, and we need to address them at the local level,” said Carroll. “It’s my responsibility to see that the governor and the people of Missouri are getting the resources and the help they need.”
Carroll said the bottom line is saving lives: getting more people into treatment so they can receive the help they need.
Parson said it was important that the meeting took place here in Southeast Missouri. He didn’t want this part of the state to feel neglected. He said at times people here felt they weren’t getting the attention they needed.
“We talk about the numbers; we talk about the statistics,” added Carroll. “Behind every one of these numbers are individuals. And that’s why it’s important to come here to this district, to this county … so we can understand the needs here. Every community is different. And we’ll be going to other parts of Missouri throughout the year to make sure they get the help they need. Just as people are individuals, so are communities.”
Earlier in the day, Carroll toured the Gibson Treatment Center. There, and also throughout this community, Carroll said he saw people showing love and caring for each other. People here in Southeast Missouri want to help lift people up, he said.