With National Medicine Abuse Awareness Month in full swing, we are continuing to focus Coalitions in Action on what past Dose of Prevention winners are doing about Rx and OTC misuse in their communities.
Collaborating for Youth (CFY), which received the 2015 Dose of Prevention Award, has continued to keep up with and be one step ahead of the ever-changing challenges of medication misuse in Adams County, Pennsylvania, the coalition’s rural service area where Gettysburg is located. This past year, the coalition has focused on a number of priorities including:
- Making it easier for people to drop off unused medicines
- Educating and reaching out to the county’s Hispanic population
- Making it easier for people – particularly low income families – to protect their medicines at home
- Creating better access to drug and alcohol-related services in Adams County through a digital resource directory with an interactive mapping link, and which is distributed electronically
- Using social media to spread its messages, events, etc. particularly to the area’s youth
To make it easier for the proper disposal of medications, CFY organizes two take-back events annually. In 2016, there are eight different sites, including at St. Frances Xavier Catholic Church, which holds a mass in Spanish, and is attended by many Hispanics. With one of its goals to reach out to the Spanish-language community, CFY has the good fortune to receive the help of a hospital educator who translates the coalition’s flyers and other literature into Spanish. They are then distributed at places frequented by the Hispanic population, including: pharmacies, the hospital, healthcare centers, schools, churches, and through the Latino Services Task Force.
“We weren’t sure how successful the take back at the Catholic Church was going to be in serving the Hispanic community,” explains Sharron Michels, Executive Director of the Center For Youth & Community Development, ‘Home of Collaborating For Youth.’ “We are finding that it is a slow process, but building.”
The coalition’s second take-back event of the year is on October 22nd. CFY hopes to see an increase in the medications disposed of at the Xavier Center at the church.
Thanks to coalition partners, the Adams County District Attorney’s Office and local law enforcement, the County also now has seven permanent drop boxes. They are located at law enforcement sites, as well as in the lobby of the County Courthouse. The coalition has played an essential role in getting the word out about the boxes and the need to dispose.
In addition, with a $5,000 grant from the local hospital foundation, Wellspan, CFY has been able to purchase personal medication boxes which are being distributed to low-income families. Targeted families are those where a member has a medical need for a narcotic, and an equally important need to lock up the medicines – for example in a household where there is a strong possibility of diversion of the medication. People who receive the boxes are given an in-depth briefing about how to count medications, lock them up, and how and where to dispose the unused drugs. To date, 40 boxes have been distributed.
Another major achievement for CFY this year was the creation of the Adams County Resource Directory, an online, public directory, which is distributed electronically by the coalition. It provides information on prevention resources, crisis intervention, treatment, hospitals and other facilities, as well as non-healthcare, supportive services such as case management, housing, and support groups. The resource directory also has a link for an interactive map which locates all of the services referenced with contact information and addresses.
Finding new ways to spread the word about CFY events, issues and concerns has also been an important priority for the coalition. They decided to explore the power of Facebook, and whether “boosting a post” would add not only the number of people who receive CFY posts on their timeline, but also, how this strategy would impact the number of “engagements” by this audience. Engagements refer to the number of “likes, comments, clicks or shares” to a particular post. CFY paid $465 to boost four different posts about the underage drinking campaign, True That.
“We were very pleased to learn that the four posts appeared on 75,000 feeds, and received 4,500 engagements,” said Michels. “It was money well-spent, and we will be using social media for a variety of other medicine and substance misuse campaigns in the future.”