Coalitions in Action— Panguitch Prevention Coalition Sees Youth Prescription Drug Use Fall to Zero Percent

Tell me about your community and the communities that your coalition serves – its population and unique features. When was the coalition formed?

The Panguitch Prevention Coalition formed in August 2010 after 12 youth in the area were referred to probation for prescription drug use in a single year. At the time, Garfield County only had one prevention specialist to cover 1500 people. “If we wanted prevention, we knew that we would have to tackle the problem through coalition work,” said prevention specialist Melissa Veater.

Garfield County is extremely large but very spread out, so reaching everybody can be a challenge. Partnering with community organizations that already had contact with most residents (churches, hospitals, pharmacies, and the Sheriff’s department) was key to ensuring that the message of prevention could spread throughout the county.

What activity or program is your coalition most proud of? What are your outcomes?

The Panguitch Prevention Coalition started by organizing annual drug take back events. In the first year of the event, the coalition collected six pounds of prescription drugs and narcotics. The next year, the coalition collected 12 pounds. Today, the Sheriff’s office has virtually taken over these events and has installed a permanent drug drop-box to ensure that county residents have a safe way to get unused prescription drugs out of their homes.

These events, in combination with the coalition’s partnerships with local hospitals and pharmacies to provide drug lock-boxes, pharmaceutical bags labelled with the location of the permanent drop-box, and information about where and how to safely dispose of prescription drugs, has drastically reduced the prevalence of prescription drug abuse in the county.

This year, in students from all grades surveyed across the county, zero percent reported prescription drug use. There have also been zero referrals to juvenile probation because of prescription drugs in the last several years. Garfield County now has the lowest rate of prescription drug use in the state.

What advice would you give to other coalitions that may be addressing some of the same issues?

“We’ve been working on this issue for 8 years, and even though we have seen change, we don’t stop addressing the issue. The work never stops, so you need to keep it in the forefront of people’s minds,” said Veater.

Veater advises that local coalitions make use of the seven strategies of change to target problems specific to their communities and continue to follow their prevention plans, even once they begin to see change.