Youth Community Coalition

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COLUMBIA – Local education and social services professionals talked to mid-Missouri legislators about a number of issues facing young people, in a Tuesday night meeting at Hickman High School.

The Youth Community Coalition, a group focused on youth substance abuse, bullying and mental health resources for young people organized the third annual legislative forum. Six state legislators from mid-Missouri were there.

Jeff Rukstad, a Columbia Police Officer in the narcotics unit, said, in 2005, heroin was almost a non-issue. Now heroin overdoses are “75 percent of what we do on a daily basis.”

Rep. Chuck Basye, R-Rocheport, said a statewide prescription drug monitoring program could help address the issue.

“It's a step in the right direction to give our pharmacists and our doctors access to what may have been prescribed to somebody else, to keep that flow from getting into the wrong hands,” Basye said.

Missouri is the only state without such a program.

Rep. Cherie Reisch, R-Hallsville, said extra-curricular activities are a must to keep teens away from drugs.

“A lot of it comes back to the parents, need to take more responsibility and not pass everything off to the school, ” she said.

The other legislators who participated were Rep. Kip Kendrick, D-Columbia, Rep. Martha Stevens, D-Columbia, Rep. Sara Walsh, R-Jamestown, and Sen. Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia.

Coalition Coordinator Ron Rowe said the group wanted to give people an opportunity to share information with legislators.

“Our members wanted to have us talk to the legislators, rather than them talk to us per say,” Rowe said.

Speakers also addressed bullying in school and increasing mental health resources.

The legislators were put on a panel this year, as compared to 2016, when the discussion took place at a round table. The change was made to accommodate a larger audience.

Rowe said he plans for the forum to continue each September and to host it at other local high schools.