New coalition envisions safer, healthier community

Ken McManus, a family counselor from St. Louis, talks to members of the Monroe County Coalition about vision and mission statements at the YMCA Monday evening. (Robyn Dexter photo)

With an announcement of staggering countywide statistics, the Monroe County Coalition opened its second meeting Monday night at the YMCA.

Monroe County Coroner Vicki Koerber started off the meeting by revealing some overdose statistics she had gathered from around the county.

“Columbia EMS, up until the end of October, had 38 calls on drug overdoses,” she said. “That is up from 19 last year. We’re talking double.”

Added to Monroe County EMS numbers, Koerber said there have been more than 50 calls to date. These calls for service represent a medical situation due to an intake of either illegal or prescription drugs and do not always result in fatality.

“This tells me that it’s not a call every two weeks – it’s one a week,” she said.

Koerber said the calls vary in age quite a bit, which is something the coalition assessed in the meeting as well.

The coalition’s efforts plan to target not just the youth of Monroe County, but the entire age spectrum.

“We see a wide gamut up until the age of 55, even 60,” Koerber said. “This coalition is moving in the right direction because being proactive is the best weapon.”

At the first meeting in November, nearly 60 community figureheads came together with the goal of working together as a community to fight substance abuse and promote education.

The group’s agenda planned to move forward with efforts such as branding and choosing an official coalition name, and decided that brainstorming a mission statement and vision for the future were the best ways to do so.

Bill Rebholz, Waterloo Boy Scout troop leader and one of the organizers of the coalition, brought back Ken McManus, a family counselor from St. Louis, to help continue the work of this coalition.

After splitting the attendees into two groups – one to work on a mission statement and one to come up with a vision of the future – attendees were able to come up with rough drafts of what they envision for the group.

Though the official wording has yet to be determined, McManus said the vision statement should be something to draw the community into what the coalition aims to do.

Regional Superintendent of Schools Kelton Davis said the vision overall should be based around health, safety and wellness.

“In an ideal situation, we would have a community that strives for every single one of its members to be living a healthy, safe life,” Davis said.

McManus said shooting for the ideal world is the goal of this vision statement.

“This can help communicate the essence of what this coalition is all about,” McManus said.

The other half of the room brainstormed ideas pertaining to a mission statement.

The rough mission statement for the coalition is to “raise awareness and bring support to the community on substance abuse issues through prevention, education and awareness.”

“There could be a variety of special programs this coalition works to create or support, along with changing policies and looking at ordinances,” McManus said. “There are a variety of things this coalition could do more readily than your separate organizations.”

As the meeting drew to a close, the group as a whole concluded that building a “web of support” for the community is a priority and becoming educated on the problems Monroe County is facing is key to that.

The coalition plans to meet next month from 4 to 5:30 p.m. on Jan. 6, at the YMCA in the community room.

They plan to decide on a coalition name and elect officers at the next meeting.

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