hugs not drugs

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FULTON - A community event in Fulton Saturday afternoon aims to tackle substance abuse issues by working together. The event "Hugs not Drugs" will takeover Veterans Park from 11 am until 6 pm.

Mid-Missouri activist groups and speakers are putting on the event to raise awareness. People of all ages are welcome to stop by and learn about local resources for people with substance use disorders and those close to them.

April Ogden-DeTienne said she wants to see the community work together to solve the problem.

"Addiction is sickness that affects everyone around it," Ogden-DeTienne said. "And how do you combat a plague, you gather the community and you do it together."

She said even those with no personal experience with substance abuse are connected to it.

"Even if you've never known an addict you are affected by it, from crime to death all the way down to our children seeing it on the streets," Ogden-DeTienne said. 

Jim Marshall is speaking at the event. He lost his son to an overdose in 2011. He founded the organization Cody's Gift to share his son's story.

"My favorite phrase is we choose to be naïve. Nobody wants to be naïve about a situation, nobody wants to get caught not having enough knowledge," Marshall said. "But because we don't think it can happen to our family, it doesn't happen in our neighborhood, we don't have the answers or the right information to deal with it."

Marshall said he hopes the event helps people realize addiction can happen anywhere.

"If there's one thing there isn't any prejudice to in this country, it's who drugs are affecting," Marshall said. "I think this is going to help for people to understand that this is happening to all walks of life."

Odgen-DeTienne said the idea came from experience.

"I've been clean for four and a half years from meth. I am a recovering addict, human trafficking survivor, and founder of the William C. Potter Foundation," Odgen-DeTienne said. "The idea for this came about when people started dying in our community."

Marshall said he hopes bringing a variety of different speakers, local resources, and organizations will help people see the problem from different angles and contexts.

He said the event is also focused on community building.

"Relationship building is the essence of anything and any walk of life, and if we're building better and stronger community relationships, there's going to be less problems with people and mental health and substance use disorders," Marshall said.

There will also be family friendly activites, and free hot-dogs from noon until 2 pm.