Coalitions in Action—Power of Putnam Develops Virtual Training for Veterinarians and Prevention Professionals

“Power of Putnam is the coalition serving Putnam County, TN,” said Coalition Director Bill Gibson. “We are located in Cookeville, which is also the home of Tennessee Technological University. We collaborate with the university on many projects.  As direct prescriptions got more difficult to obtain and people were seeking other access points, we learned that ‘vet shopping’ was becoming a potential problem in our region.  Many controlled substances which humans misuse are also prescribed for animals (opioid painkillers, benzodiazepines, etc). Those seeking access this way will reportedly take an animal to numerous veterinarian offices seeking a prescription. There are media accounts of people actually hurting an animal to have a greater likelihood of getting the meds. To further complicate things, there are reports of overdose because of people thinking they can take more because of the relative weight. (If my dog weighs 40 pounds and I weigh 200, I can take 5 of these) when actually animals have a faster metabolism and are often prescribed larger doses than a human of equal weight would receive.”  

“In late 2019, the team designed a plan to reach out to around 20 vets and vet techs in our area to gather data, assess the problem, increase awareness and provide them with resources to address it,” said Gibson. “Resources would include training, office signage, patient agreements, medication warning stickers, home lockboxes to give pet owners, technical assistance and developing a plan for when they encountered a suspicious situation, including a network where they would warn other offices. We also appointed an advisory committee of vets to keep us informed going forward. In January 2020 we received a foundation grant from the AmerisourceBergen Foundation to fund our implementation plan.”

“Part of this is a COVID-19 adaptation success story,” said Gibson. “By March, we had engaged several local offices and had good participation. When we could not do live training and meetings and had to minimize live contact, we had to take things virtual. We developed a five-module online training utilizing the significant resources of the university. The training was approved by the state veterinary board for two (free) hours of continuing education and the State Vet Association endorsed it and advertised it. Between October, when the course went live and December, 180 vets and techs all across TN had registered for the training and by the end of the year around 140 had completed it. Adapting to COVID-19 multiplied project reach from 20 regionally to 180 statewide and set up further expansion possibilities. The course also includes a Narcan training, some general information on addiction and recovery and an exit survey. Upon completion, a free overdose reversal kit and other resources are made available.”

“The next step was to make this training available to prevention and recovery specialists for two purposes,” said Gibson. “We did this to promote a better understanding of the problem in our profession and to provide resources for coalitions that might want to implement a similar community outreach for their own local vet offices. The TN Certification Board approved it for two training hours for prevention specialists. That part of this project is just rolling out and we thought an article in Coalitions Online might help get the word out to coalitions that might be interested in doing this.”

“We received second year funding and are in the process of updating the course, organizing the statewide advisory committee and approaching the vet boards in the eight states that surround Tennessee to approve the course for continuing education credits,” said Gibson. “We also hope to find coalitions in these states that are interested in assistance in doing this in their regions and states.” 

“Here is a link to the course,” said Gibson. “This link is only for prevention/recovery professionals. Veterinarians use a link specific to that profession. Feel free to register and take a look at the modules.”