Coalitions in Action: Keeping PAACE with prescription drugs
In Parker, Arizona, the community is no stranger to the prescription drug epidemic that is affecting the nation. Through the coalition’s partnership with local law enforcement, the coalition secured a prescription medication drop box at the Parker Police Station in late 2015. Within the first year, the drop box collected 34 pounds of excess medication and are currently on track to double that number within the next year.
“We have worked tirelessly with all three of our law enforcement agencies: Parker Police Department, La Paz County Sheriff Department and CRIT PD to rid our community of the abundant amount of Rx medication,” said Courtney Rodgers, Director of Community Relations at Parker Area Alliance for Community Empowerment (PAACE). “Our drop box efforts have been so successful that our law enforcement entities are now working on obtaining their very own incinerator on-site as well.”
While the law enforcement side of the prescription drug problem is proving beneficial reactively, the coalition also wanted to address the education of prescribers and their use of drugs proactively – through the Arizona Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP). Through outreach and education, La Paz County has seen a 244 percent increase from 2015 to 2017 in prescribers who have signed up and are using the PDMP to keep track of prescription drug use. There has been a 15 percent increase in the number of pharmacists who are using the program. The coalition’s efforts have contributed to 62 percent of all prescribers in La Paz County signed up and using the PDMP.
La Paz County has a unique demographic, ranked number three in the United States for largest percentage of population ages 65 and over. However, the County experiences an influx of tourists during spring and summer for river activities and winter for the mild weather. La Paz County is on the California and Arizona border, divided by the Colorado River. Of the County’s 4,900 square miles, over 95 percent of that land is either state or federally owned, including the Colorado River Indian Tribes’ reservation. The town of Parker is only one square mile, surrounded by reservation land.
Through efforts to increase education about prescription drugs, the coalition has helped families create prevention plans and encourage parent and youth conversations by starting a dialogue. The 2016 Arizona Youth Survey showed that across eighth, tenth and twelfth graders, 97 percent of students felt their parents would be disappointed if they used prescription drugs and 90 percent of students stated peer disapproval of drug use.
“The best piece of advice to other coalitions is knowing that nothing happens overnight and nothing will happen if you don’t begin the conversation,” said Rodgers. “We encourage other coalitions across the country to utilize their most valuable resources – pick their brains, listen to their ideas and include them in the process.”