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Local Crisis Center offers hope for people battling addiction


The United States life expectancy has dropped for the second consecutive year due to COVID-19 and drug overdoses.

According to the CDC, the average life expectancy in the U.S. dropped from 77.0 to 76.1 years. In 2020, the average life expectancy dropped by 1.8 years, resulting in the lowest life expectancy since 1996.

Dr. Drew Shoemaker, director of addiction services at Burrel Behavioral Health, said the increase in opioid-related overdoses is due in part to fentanyl-laced drugs.

"Most of what's out there even though it's touted as being heroin, it's actually fentanyl," Shoemaker said. "They're also putting fentanyl in methamphetamine."

Shoemaker said fentanyl-laced heroin and meth can increase the chances of fatal overdoses because meth and heroin users have never experienced opiates before making their nervous systems opiate naive.

"If they get too much fentanyl that can cause an overdose because a person who's never used opiates is much more susceptible to overdoses than the person who has used it regularly," Shoemaker said.

Shoemaker said fentanyl is 100 times more potent than heroin.

The overdose-reversing medication called Narcan is something Shoemaker tries to get into the hands of as many addicts and their loved ones as possible.

"We tried to make sure that they also walk out of the pharmacy with a prescription for Narcan," Schoemaker said.

Narcan is widely available in Missouri and doesn't require a prescription. Peer Specialist Joe Jeffries is helping addicts navigate sobriety through his role at Burrell Behavioral Health.

"I myself am in recovery from substance use disorder, as well as co-occurring mental health conditions," Jeffries said. "So for me, the way I view my role is that I am kind of like a beacon of hope for those that are still struggling."

Jeffries says the first step in recovery is always the hardest.

"Having a place where somebody can do when they've made that decision and we can help to get them into a place where they are safe and we can direct them towards treatment and pipeline them into treatment through compassionate pathways is beyond important," Jeffires said.

Both Jeffries and Shoemaker said ongoing conversations and educating the public can also end the stigma around addiction, and allow those suffering to have better access to help centers like Burrell.

Burrell Behavioral Health offers a number of mental health services including an Emergency Crisis Center.

Located at 1805 E. Walnut, Columbia, Missouri 65201.

Burrell also offers a 24-hours Crisis Hotline.

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Marina Diaz

Marina is a Multimedia Journalist for ABC 17 News, she is originally from Denver, Colorado. She went to Missouri Valley College where she played lacrosse and basketball, and anchored her school’s newscast.


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