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What was billed as the “first annual” Legislative Gathering was held in Ava last Thursday morning at the MOCH Wellness Center.
The meeting was hosted by the Douglas County Interagency Council, involving some 23 different community agencies and organizations.
Cindy Rains, of White River Valley Electric Cooperative, spearheaded the meeting and the Community Health Assistance Resources Team (CHART) was the local sponsor.
Assisted by Ava Mayor Eddie Maggard, CHART presented Smokebuster awards to a group of high school students from Ava High School and Ava Victory Academy who have taken the initiative to promote smoke-free activities in the community.
Dr. Brian Wilson, superintendent, and David Williams and BJ Sterling, from Ava R-1 Schools, shared information about the 21st Century Grant Ava has received to provide after school activities in the community.
Participation in the program is not limited to Ava students, they said. Funded by a half-million-dollar grant over five years, the program provides instructional activities for students in pre-kindergarten through high school, and also offers adult classes.
The program provides tutoring for participating students, plus, those attending get their evening meal. Through this program, parents and school officials can know that their students are in a safe place almost 12 hours a day, Mrs. Sterling said, and are receiving nutritional meals while here.
Several legislators or their representatives were in attendance for the community meeting.
State Representatives Lyle Rowland (143rd District) and Tony Dugger (144th District) were present along with State Senator Jay Wasson. It was revealed at the meeting that, because of state redistricting, Douglas County will see changes in district boundaries after the next statewide elections.
Also attending were Stacy Burks, from Sen. Roy Blunt’s office, David Rauth, from Sen. Claire McCaskill’s office, and Heather Pugh from Cong. Jo Ann Emerson’s West Plains office.
Mike Cunningham, chief of staff for Sen. Wasson, also attended.
Douglas County Sheriff Chris Degase addressed the group, speaking primarily about the latest drug activity to surface, “shake and bake” methamphetamine. He said drug users have found a new, much faster way to process meth, which makes it even more difficult to catch them.
In response to a question from Sen. Wasson regarding bath salts, Degase said when legislation is passed to take them off the market, the manufacturers change the ingredients.
Degase said the criminal labs are backed up so much that it can take months to get a report back on seized drugs. He said it would be beneficial to law enforcement if there were some way to do on-site testing.
Anita Perritt, from Ozark Action, told the group her agency currently has a lot of money available for home energy assistance. She encourages qualifying homeowners, or landlords who rent to qualifying tenants, to take advantage of the opportunities available in weatherproofing their homes.
Lavona Stafford, RN, with the Douglas County Health Department, also shared information about some of the services offered. “We do a lot of things people don’t know about,” she said.
Some of those services include case management for pregnant women, investigating food-borne illnesses, and the Health Dept. just recently received a 3-year grant for workforce development.
Judy Shields, executive director of the Ava Area Chamber of Commerce, emceed the meeting and announced that Norma Stillings, from the CHART group, will be grand marshal of the Ava Christmas Parade on Saturday by virtue of being the 2011 recipient of the John Dickison Award.
At the conclusion of the meeting, attendees were given a tour of the Missouri Ozark Community Health Wellness Center by Richard Sims, CEO.