DANIEL CLIFTON • EDITOR
BURNET — One of the goals of Join the Journey’s organizers from its beginning several years ago was creating a place in Burnet where families could go if their child was experimenting with or using drugs or similar substances.
On Sept. 22, that goal becomes a reality. Join the Journey, the Burnet Consolidated Independent School District and Bluebonnet Trails Community Services came together to set up a substance use treatment center at BCISD’s Professional Development Center, 308 E. Brier. A ribbon-cutting is 4-6 p.m. Sept. 22.
Andrea Richardson, executive director of Bluebonnet Trails Community Services, said the term is “substance use” and not “substance abuse.”
“We wanted someplace parents and children could go if a child is using a drug,” Richardson said.
Often, she pointed out, people think help isn’t needed until someone starts abusing drugs. But intervention is needed as soon as a child begins using a drug, she said.
“We hope to catch children before it really is too late,” she said. “We want to make this as preventive as possible.”
Join the Journey co-founder Janet Christiansen is pleased to have a local center.
“I’m so grateful that Burnet students and citizens will be able to have local help fighting addictions,” she said. “As a parent who lived this crisis, the treatment options seemed so limited and distant. When we started, Round Rock was the closest Bluebonnet Trails facility, and the Marble Falls treatment facility was a future possibility. I wanted to see a local resource, one easy to access, a part of our community.”
The center is geared toward students. Before the opening of the center, students and their families had to travel to the Bluebonnet Trails Community Services office in Marble Falls for the nearest help. The new center puts help right in Burnet’s backyard and within reach of those who need it.
Burnet’s Join the Journey started a little over two years ago when school and community leaders saw major drug use in the area with no umbrella organization making a concerted effort to stem the problem. Christiansen, a mother who lost her son to a drug overdose, was one of the early leaders.
One of her missions was to do everything in her power to make sure another family never had to endure what she and her loved ones did after the loss of her son. Christiansen and BCISD Superintendent Keith McBurnett and other community leaders formed Join the Journey to provide resources to families that might have children dealing with drug issues and educate parents on how they could help their children avoid those traps.
Part of the mission was connecting parents and students with professional support, something the community seemed to lack locally.
“We need to fight this battle quickly and with every resource possible to save our kids,” Christiansen said. “This is another tool the community can offer to win the war on drugs — our stated goal.”
Richardson said the new facility will offer clinic-based counseling, group sessions and more, all in connection with BCISD.
And drug use often is a sign for underlying problems with which the child is struggling.
“When children are going toward drugs, it’s often because of other issues,” she said. “Suicide is a big problem with children, especially teens.”
She pointed out that Georgetown recently experienced two teen suicides. While substance use and substance abuse intervention is the main objective of the new center, Richardson said if staff or counselors discover a child is struggling with something more menacing, they’ll work as quickly as possible to get him or her the help he or she needs.
During its strategic planning, Join the Journey struggled to point youth toward a local treatment center, but now with this facility opening, that’s no longer a barrier, officials added.
The next step, Christiansen said, is “The Truth about Drugs,” an annual program in October. More details are coming she added.
As for the center, it’s a great step toward equipping the community and families.
“The partnership with (Bluebonnet Trails), BCISD and Join the Journey is unique and a testament to what we can do working together to find solutions,” Christiansen said. “My son Caleb would have been 25 on Sept. 10, and I will always grieve over not having him, but I continue to honor his memory and fight to save others from this outcome because of my great love for him and my desire to save families from this heartbreak.
“Please don’t think you’re immune from drugs affecting you and those you love,” she said. “It can and does happen, and we must continue to fight until it is eradicated in our community.”
Parents, students or family members who are concerned a student might be using drugs can call 1-844-309-6385 to get the youth into the Burnet treatment facility.
Go to www.btxjourney.net for more information.