‘I took my first line when I was 32, and I’m 47.’ Missouri substance abusers get help navigating the road to sobriety

Published: Sep. 20, 2021 at 12:18 PM EDT
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - Understanding drug addiction is something many people often don’t have the compassion to do especially if it’s a struggle they don’t experience. The hardship is one that Melissa Evans of Douglas County, Missouri is going through.

“I took my first line when I was 32, and I’m 47.”

Evans, a recovering methamphetamine user, recalls the catalyst that drove her to use drugs.

“When I was growing up, I was sexually abused,” she says. “My father was never in the picture after that happened.”

During her teen years, Evans had run-ins with the law.

“When I was 16, I got put on probation through juvenile here in Missouri, and I just wouldn’t listen,” says Evans. “I wouldn’t go to school. I wouldn’t do anything.”

Evans says her constant rebellion was a cry for help that ultimately led her to a habit that’s been difficult to quit.

“Methamphetamines is the only drug I’ve ever used,” says Evans. “I got in the wrong crowd, and everybody was doing it. And they’re like ‘oh, it will make you feel better.’ Well, it’s very addictive. Once you do it, you either love it or you don’t. I just happen to be one who choose to like it. It just progressed until I got in trouble.”

After landing in the local jail, Evans was introduced to Joshua Browning at the Douglas County Health Department.

“We play a liaison between them and the things in the community that can either help them stay clean or get them the help that they need,” says Browning.

Browning’s official role is called a community navigator. He is one of two navigators covering Douglas, Ozark, Wright, and Texas counties.

The Douglas County Health Department created the positions in 2020 through the Missouri Foundation for Health funding.

On average, Douglas County sees five new clients seeking services a week.

Those services range from finding rehab programs to providing financial assistance for gas and transportation to appointments.

“Primarily, if you see someone using drugs or alcohol, they’re probably using it as a pain killer whether that’s psychological or that’s physical pain,” says Browning.

Browning says the goal is to now eliminate that pain by letting people know the community navigators are willing to help drug users get connected to resources and programs to stay clean.

If you live in Douglas, Ozark, Texas, and Wright counties and need help, call the Douglas County Health Department at 417-683-4174 for assistance.

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