In South Kingstown, Rhode Island, the South Kingstown Partnership for Prevention (SKPP) launched the Count It. Lock It. Drop It. (CLD) medication safety campaign to address the opioid crisis. In Rhode Island, overdose deaths caused by a combination of illicit drugs and prescription medication have increased by one-third since 2011.
“SKPP is confronting this opioid issue from a multifaceted approach, including educating our community members, parents and students on this epidemic, as well as focusing on mental health and providing additional means for youth to develop positive coping skills,” said Mary-Kathleen Whitten, the outreach coordinator at SKPP. “CLD was adapted from Coffee County Anti-Drug Coalition out of Tennessee, which we learned about while attending the CADCA National Leadership Academy.”
In a joint effort with local health providers, educators, youth leaders, coalition members and Narragansett Prevention Partnership (NPP), the coalition is encouraging community members to safeguard their medications in order to prevent non-prescription use of opioids. The campaign involves educating the community about the dangers of prescription drug misuse and abuse and the importance of preventing medicine cabinets from becoming unintended sources of drugs.
SKPP serves the town of South Kingstown, a population of 35,000 that is home to the University of Rhode Island (URI). The coalition partnered with a local Green Line Apothecary to provide lock boxes to anyone receiving an opioid prescription, and provided educational materials to the South County ER and local oral surgeons to help patients and caregivers prevent unwarranted use of opioids.
When out in the community or schools for events, the coalition provides Deterra bags for the safe disposal of unused medications and Timer Caps to monitor when/if a medication bottle has been opened, and encourage disposing of medications at the local police station medication drop lock boxes. The coalition partnered with URI pharmacy students to conduct medicine safety education in 5th and 6th grade health classes and speak to local PTOs and parenting groups about the campaign.
SKPP collaborated with the former US Attorney for the District of Rhode Island, Peter Nerohna, to conduct a town hall meeting, featuring the documentary Chasing the Dragon, with a panel of experts including law enforcement, medical and mental health professionals, a person in recovery and a family that lost a loved one to opioid addiction. Following community discussion, the coalition worked to recreate the same forum within the local high school.
“We are extremely proud of our youth leaders who took it upon themselves to raise funds to attend CADCA’s Mid-Year Training in Atlanta,” said Whitten. “Our youth have embraced prevention and have been effective in changing policies within our school district, creating substance free fun evening and taking an initiative to focus on mental health. The students in our coalition have leadership roles within the youth group in the school as well as within our community coalition.”
Two of the coalition’s youth shared their experience at Mid-Year on the CADCA blog. “SKPP would suggest that youth be an active catalyst in addressing any substance abuse prevention issue,” Whitten advises fellow coalitions. “We encourage other coalitions to give their youth leadership roles both in the community and in the schools, and to reach out to other coalitions to partner with to effectively work on addressing the same issues.”