Both the news and local jails are full of people in trouble over illegal substances — possessing drugs or paraphernalia, delivering drugs, committing crimes to get more drugs.
"To me, addiction is a community sickness," said April Ogden-DeTienne, a local activist. "It's like a plague. How do you combat that? You get the community together and figure out what it's going to take."
This Saturday, Ogden-DeTienne, the William C. Potter Foundation and other area activist groups are putting on "Hugs not Drugs," an event designed to raise awareness about drug use in the community. From 11 a.m.-6 p.m., all are welcome to visit Veterans Park in Fulton and listen to speakers, enjoy family friendly activities such as face painting, eat free hot dogs (noon-2 p.m.), and learn about local resources for those with substance use disorders and their families.
"I've been doing addiction and human trafficking events for a while," Ogden-DeTienne said. "Over the past year, our county has been really inundated with a lot of drug activity, drug arrests. People are dying in our community. And we're all a part of it."
She pointed out even those who have never personally faced drug addiction are affected by it.
"Your children see it; people are walking our streets addicted to drugs," she said. "It's to the point we have to come together."
The event is open to all: from those seeking help to those who want to learn how to support the cause.
"This is not a fundraiser, this is about raising awareness," Ogden-DeTienne said.
The event's name, "Hugs not Drugs," might be a bit humorous, but there's a reason behind it.
"The thing about addiction is, you have to have support," Ogden-DeTienne said. "The reason I've been sober for the 4.5 years I've been clean from methamphetamine is I have a vast support system."
She'll share her story, as will Coach Jim Marshall of Cody's Gift. Marshall is a Mid-Missouri educator who speaks at schools about his son, Cody, whom he lost to an overdose in 2011. Members of local law enforcement are also attending.
Pillars of the community support system will also be on hand to connect with locals who need help. That includes addiction counselors and local pastors.
"We'll have upwards of 20 clergy from throughout the community," Ogden-DeTienne said. "They're coming to remind people that even if you can't get into treatment, churches aren't like they used to be with the stigma and if you're an addict you can't come there. All these clergy are willing to talk to someone active in addiction or their family."
Lastly, there will be representatives from other organizations, including Missouri Missing and the Central Missouri Stop Human Trafficking Coalition. Human trafficking and the drug trade go hand in hand, Ogden-DeTienne said.
"There will be someone there you'll connect with," she said. "It may be a counselor, a member of clergy, a recovering addict, someone like Coach Marshall. We just want to encourage people to come. We've got some really powerful resources that are going to be there that day."
Her ultimate goal in raising awareness is to eventually bring a 21-day treatment center to Fulton. The need is clear, she said.
"We're a big county, and getting into treatment in another city is very difficult," Ogden-DeTienne added.
This article was edited at 9:25 a.m. June 27, 2019 to reflect that the Hugs not Drugs event will be in Veterans Park in Fulton.