Drug Abuse Free Iredell ramps up opioid abuse prevention efforts
BY DEBBIE PAGE
The Drug Abuse Free Iredell coalition continued its work to eliminate abuse of prescription opioids, alcohol and other illicit drug use at its rescheduled meeting on Monday, Jan. 30. The organization has several upcoming local events to promote its agenda and raise funds for the cause.
Drug Abuse Free Iredell “is committed to the reduction of prescription overdose deaths in Iredell County by coordinating a consistent message and response about drugs in hopes of interrupting the escalation of prescription overdose deaths by encouraging members of the community to get rid of unused prescription medications.”
The urgency of the state’s problem is apparent in a recent national ranking of cities by percentage of abuse of opioid prescriptions. Seventeen out of the top 25 cities are in mostly rural Southern states. According to the Castlight Health study, North Carolina has four cities on the list: 1. Wilmington, 4. Hickory, 12. Jacksonville, and 15. Fayetteville.
To fight this epidemic, DAFI’s mission includes educating health care providers on safe prescribing of opioids by promoting the Controlled Substance Reporting System and increasing their dispensing and use of Naloxone, which reverses an opioid overdose.
DAFI also wants to publicize the prevalence of prescription drug abuse and stop unauthorized access to prescription drugs by promoting safe use, storage and disposal of these dangerous substances. These actions will help prevent overdose and deaths in the community.
Additionally, the group advocates for legislative changes that can aid in reducing and preventing substance misuse, abuse and overdose deaths. The organization also provides proven youth abuse prevention strategies and works to provide sensitive and effective help for people with substance use disorders.
Growing Awareness of Problem
County Commissioner Tommy Bowles noted the growing awareness across the state of the opioid addiction plague. “This problem is urgent, more than most people realize. I am amazed that at all the state meetings I go to, no matter what the topic is supposed to be, everyone is talking about opioids,” he said.
It’s becoming a problem with human capital and economic and business recruiting, according to Bowles, because it’s getting harder to find people who can pass drug tests and be at work every morning.
Recognizing the depth of this problem, the county commissioners changed the date of the board's annual winter retreat, which conflicted with the upcoming DAFI training event, so that commissioners could attend and further educate themselves about the county’s substance abuse issues.
Opioid Overdose Prevention Training on Feb. 25
DAFI Coalition Coordinator Regina Propst announced that two of its member agencies, the Iredell County Health Department and Partners Behavioral Health Management, are presenting an awareness and training session entitled “Iredell County Opioid Epidemic: Guidance for Health Care Providers” on Saturday, Feb. 25.
Doctors, physician assistants, nurses, primary care physicians, dentists, pharmacists, nurse practitioners, Controlled Substance Reporting System delegates, and other healthcare providers who serve the people of Iredell County are encouraged to attend.
Noted addiction psychiatrist Dr. Omar Manejwala will be the keynote speaker for the free 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. sessions, for which CME and CE contact hours are available. A continental breakfast and box lunch are also provided.
To register online, go to https://www.eventbrite.com/e/iredell-county-opioid.... For more information, email Propst at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 828-217-8470.
Lock Your Meds Effort
Propst also announced the addition of Iredell County to the Lock Your Meds organization website, http://www.lockyourmeds.org/nc/iredell/.
The Lock Your Meds national multi-media campaign seeks “to reduce prescription drug abuse by making adults aware that they are the unwitting suppliers of prescription medications being used in unintended ways, especially by young people.”
Prescription medicines are essential to cure sickness and pain, but when others abuse leftover medications, they put themselves in grave danger. Lock Your Meds reports that 1,700 children and young adults begin experimenting with prescription drugs each day.
According to the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, the abuse of prescription drugs, which rose 71 percent from 2000 to 2013, afflicts an estimated 6.5 million Americans, which is more than the number of people abusing heroin, cocaine, and hallucinogens combined.
Lock Your Meds also reports that 25 percent of teens have abused prescription drugs, which are the first choice of 12-13 year old abusers. Frighteningly, 13 is the average age of those who abuse sedatives and stimulants.
Ten precent of high school seniors have abused pain relievers. Middle school and high school girls are more likely to misuse over-the-counter medications, but males lead this category among 18 to 25 year-olds.
Community members can safely dispose of unused prescription and nonprescription drugs at the Statesville and Mooresville Police Departments 24 hours a day and at the Iredell County Sheriff’s Office from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
'Chasing the Dragon'
The DAFI Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) representative encouraged the coalition to promote the video "Chasing the Dragon" as an effective resource to reach both young people and their parents.
The video, available for viewing at https://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/raising-awareness..., depicts “stark first-person accounts told by individuals who have abused opioids or whose children have abused opioids, with tragic consequences.”
“I saw a lot of moms' mouths drop open when they saw this film,” said the agent. The Charlotte DEA office will provide guidelines and panel members for question and answer sessions as part of the program.
“I was absolutely shocked at the amount of parents who do not want to talk to their children about sex and drugs,” he commented. “Kids do not want to be preached to by an old guy like me, so this video is effective at reaching them.”
The video depicts the stories of three real people, and accompanying panel discussion ideas are available for churches and schools, but the agent warned that the language and depictions are graphic to drive home the dangers of prescription drug abuse.
Propst also announced that on Feb. 1, Williamson Chapel United Methodist Church in Mooresville is donating proceeds from its Wednesday night dinner to DAFI. The chicken and dumpling supper will be served from 5:30 to 6:30 for a suggested donation of $5. To make a reservation to attend the fundraiser, go to https://wcumc.ccbchurch.com/form_response.php?id=9....
Adoption of Bylaws and Procedures
Created five years ago, DAFI is broadening its mission from a focus solely on prescription drug abuse to also include other illicit drugs and alcohol, which will increase the organization’s grant opportunities since most require attention on multiple areas of drug abuse.
To that end, DAFI officially voted to adopt bylaws and procedures at Monday’s meeting to improve its functioning and formalize its operation. Each July, members will elect a chairperson, vice-chairperson, secretary, treasurer and two members-at-large to govern the coalition.
The bylaws require a broad-based coalition to include parents, school district representatives, police departments, youth organizations, religious organizations, county health and social service agencies, local hospitals, doctors, healthcare providers, pharmacists, government officials, and various addiction and behavioral counseling organizations in its community-wide efforts.
The coalition will also require members to submit a letter of commitment each year to affirm their active participation in meetings, committees, events, and fundraising efforts.
The group is also considering a name change in the new fiscal year in July, with perhaps the addition of “substance abuse” and “disorder” as part of the coalition’s name. Iredell County “Alcohol Substance Abuse Prevention” (ASAP) is one possible suggestion to indicate the urgency of the county’s drug issues.