October 20, 2016

Coalitions in Action: Coalition Tackles Rx Misuse in Central Arizona


Coalition Tackles Rx Misuse in Central Arizona

For National Medicine Abuse Awareness Month (NMAAM), we are once again featuring a winner of the annual Dose of Prevention Award. This week, we’d like to call your attention to the work of the Casa Grande Alliance (CGA) in Casa Grande, Arizona, and winner of the 2010 Dose of Prevention Award.

Casa Grande is about 50 miles south of Phoenix, and 72 miles north of Tucson in Central Arizona. It has a population of about 49,000, which increases every winter by 15,000-20,000 people escaping the cold weather, also known as “snowbirds.”

Being located on the illegal drug-use corridor which runs from the Mexican border heading northward, the people of Casa Grande have long been aware of meth, cocaine and heroin trafficking and abuse in their community. But over the years, the coalition and its partners have been working diligently to educate people that prescription (Rx) and over-the-counter (OTC) medicine misuse is also something they need to be concerned about.

A major coalition focus has been its involvement in the Arizona Prescription Drug Misuse and Abuse Initiative, developed by the Arizona Criminal Justice Commission and the Governor’s Office of Youth, Faith and Family’s Arizona Substance Abuse Partnership. Other state agencies including the Arizona Department of Health Services support the Prescription Drug Misuse and Abuse Initiative through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) Partnering for Success grant.

The Initiative is a statewide effort to ensure community-driven, agency-supported outcomes to prevent and reduce the negative impacts of prescription drug misuse. Pinal County, which is 5,374 square miles (both urban and rural) and includes Casa Grande, was one of three pilot counties selected to implement the initiative in 2012. Today, CGA is one of many groups still involved with this effort.

The Initiative focuses on five strategies, each with specific goals to improve the health of Arizona’s communities and families:

Strategy 1: Reduce illicit acquisition and diversion of prescription drugs

  • Goal One: Educate and train law enforcement officers
  • Goal Two: Increase the use of proper storage of Rx medicines in the home
  • Goal Three: Increase the use of the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program

The other strategies are:

Strategy 2: Educate prescribers and pharmacists about “Rx drug best practices”

Strategy 3:  Enhance Rx drug practice and policies in law enforcement

Strategy 4: Increase public awareness about the risks of Rx drug misuse

Strategy 5: Build resilience in children and adults

“Each month the Pinal County Substance Abuse Council, of which we are a part, meets to discuss and carryout the goals of the Initiative,” explains Breanna Boland, Executive Director of Casa Grande Alliance. “And as an example, we now have 18 permanent drop boxes across Pinal County.”

To help encourage Goal Two of Strategy One, CGA provides ongoing information to the public about proper ways to store medicines at home. In fact, they have teamed up with Home Depot, which sends a representative to CGA’s health and wellness tables, to show consumers how practical home items such as tool boxes, can have a padlock and therefore be used to store Rx and OTC medications. At other public events, CGA has raffled off personal lock boxes made by Rx Armory.

“It is an ongoing work-in-progress to educate the people of Casa Grande about prescription and OTC use and misuse,” concludes Boland.

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