Missouri’s Behavioral Health division is calling Missouri’s substance use problem a public health crisis.

Director Nora Bock said her division oversees mental health and substance use disorder services. It is working to reduce the number of alcohol or drug issues, enhance functioning for those affected by substance use, and improve public understanding and attitudes toward substance use disorders.

“It’s our job to keep an eye on things and make sure that folks are getting access to quality services, evidence based practices,” said Bock. “The next one is reporting data. My goodness, we have a lot of data. That’s a duty because of our block grants but we also collect a lot of data because we want to know how folks are doing.”

Terms like abuse, junkie, addicts, or being clean are buzz words that should not be used, according to Bock.

“There’s a reason for that,” she said. “Studies have shown that the use of those sorts of terms have a negative impact on people who treat those individuals; the general public, who we are aiming to help inform with facts about what it means to have a substance use disorder; and it impacts and decreases the hope for the individuals themselves.”

The taskforce has been meeting monthly since the conclusion of the 2023 regular session.

Bock outlined the basics of addiction.

“I have never, in my life, heard any youth say, ‘I want to grow up to have an addiction. I want to grow up and lose my family. I want to grow up and because I use substances, I want to be homeless. I want to be jobless.’ Keep that in mind because it’s not a life goal, nor does it remain a goal even for individuals who are currently using substances,” said Bock.

She labeled substance use disorder as a chronic recurring disease where users are compulsively seeking substances, regardless of the harmful consequences.

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