Based in New Jersey, The Southwest Council partnered with a local hospital network, Inspira Health Network and the Health & Wellness Alliance, to develop an initiative aimed at reducing drug abuse by changing the community norm of how prescription drugs are handled.
“The initiative Account. Secure. Dispose. focuses on both education and resourcing. We educate about the risks and dangers of drug abuse, and then give the community a kit containing what they would need to begin changing their habits with prescription drugs,” said Matthew Rudd, Director of Coalitions and Communications at The Southwest Council. “For Account., we give out Med-Trackers to record what medications and how many are remaining; for Secure., we distribute TimerCaps, which we learned about at CADCA’s National Leadership Forum, to know when the last time a bottle was opened. This is beneficial for both remembering when the last dose was taken, as well as guarding against suspected abuse; and finally, for Dispose., we supply Deterra bags along with a listing of all the local places that have dropboxes.”
The coalition serves three counties in south and western parts of New Jersey; each county shares many of the same needs while remaining uniquely distinct. The coalition serves Cumberland, Salem and Gloucester counties, which are home to 511,000 people. The Southwest Council developed three different coalitions to serve the three counties; two state-funded and one funded by the Drug-Free Communities grant.
“Working as separate coalitions, while also sharing ideas, networks, and resources has been a huge advantage to be action-oriented on prevention initiatives,” said Rudd. The three coalitions are: SCRATCH (Salem-Cumberland Regional Action toward Community Health), GRASP (Gloucester Regional Addictive Substance Prevention), and CCHCC (Cumberland County Healthy Communities Coalition).
Since the launch of the program, the coalition distributed over 25,000 Deterra bags, and continues to schedule more Account. Secure. Dispose. presentations regularly. The coalitions built in an evaluation component to see how people are utilizing the Deterra bags. To date, 348 respondents, with the average age of the person utilizing the drug deactivation being 63 years old, indicated they have disposed of 82 pills on average. This translates to over two million pills safety disposed, and out of the water system.
“Finding key partners is the magic that makes coalition work happen. Sometimes this is as simple as continuing to show up. We have been connected with Inspira for a long time before our partnership with this project took off,” said Rudd. “Our coalitions look for every valuable opportunity to link up with organizations with overlapping agendas, even when something doesn’t fit into ours right away. Showing up persistently has made it possible to speak up and get involved when the timing is right.”