Coalitions in Action—Roane County Anti-Drug Coalition Raises Awareness about Pet Medication Misuse

Coalition’s Population and Unique Features

Roane County is a rural area in East Tennessee, and areas in southern Roane County have extremely high rates of unemployment, persistent poverty and low rates of high school completion.  The county is served by the Appalachian Regional Commission and has an unemployment rate of 4.8%.  According to the most recent U.S. Census, the total population is 54,181.  Of this, 23% is under 18 years of age and 18.7% is over 65.  The county’s population is 94.4% White and 2.7% Black with 1.6% reporting mixed races.  Poverty is a serious problem for a high percentage of households.  The 18 schools in the county system serve a K-12 population of 7,030 of whom 58% receive free lunch.  The $22,425 median per capita income in Roane County is below state and national averages.  The U.S. Census Bureau classifies Roane County as economically disadvantaged as 21.3% of its children live in poverty.  These conditions contribute to the community’s substance abuse issues.

Highlighting Activities

The Roane County Anti-Drug Coalition (RCADC) recently partnered with the Roane County Animal Shelter, Roane County Paws, Outdoor Kingston, and Gray Knob Kennels to provide substance abuse education related to pet medication.  Many individuals do not understand that medication given to pets can be used and abused.  The partnership provides leashes, collars, locations of prescription drop boxes in the county where unused, unwanted, and expired medication can be safely disposed of, along with DisposeRX.  DisposeRX, a safe and environmental solution for medication disposal can be used to render the opioids unusable until the medication can be taken to a drop box.  An August 9th article in  Newsweek  states that owners are abusing their animals to get opioids.  The article states that Tramadol, which is the most commonly stocked opioid by veterinary practices, is often the target.  Tramadol is extremely inexpensive as it wholesales for less than $25 for a 1,000-pill bottle.  RCADC is also sponsoring the adoption fees for one dog per month at the Roane County Animal Shelter.  In addition to the covered adoption fee, the new owner is provided with a leash, collar, DisposeRX, and the disposal locations.  RCADC also provides free lock boxes to the community which are available upon request and encourages individuals to lock up their pet medication in addition to their own prescriptions.  RCADC hopes to raise awareness of this issue and to ensure that expired or unused pet medication is safely disposed.

Interventions and Outcomes

RCADC’s focus is on prevention and the coalition is always eager to increase partnerships within the community.  The lack of understanding regarding pet medication and the risks involved with led to the focus of this initiative. As a result of focused efforts from the coalition and the partnership with the Roane County Animal shelter, the Facebook reach for RCADC has exceeded 35,000 and Twitter has increased to 24,000 followers.

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

Jeanna Steele-Mack, Program Director shares, “Meet with your local community groups to see where a gap might exist and where knowledge can be increased.  Be active on social media as that is a great way to spread information quickly.”