Red Clay News
Red Clay Nurses Join Fight Against Prescription Drug Abuse
A group of Red Clay nurses has put their training to good use by partnering with the Delaware Division of Public Health (DPH) to offer an education program to prevent and identify prescription drug abuse among teenagers and pre-teens.
The program was announced late last week at Alexis I. du Pont High School (AIHS) with the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services, and the Office of the Attorney General.
The program adapts Smart Moves/Smart Choices, a research-based program developed by the National Association of School Nurses and Janssen Pharmaceuticals for middle and high school students. The program features an extensive curriculum, lessons, and videos to use in the classroom; activities, discussions, and worksheets for the classroom teacher; and other resources. Soon the nurses and DPH will hold assemblies in their middle and high schools. At the elementary level, they will use the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “Up and Away Program,” which reminds adults to keep prescription drugs out of children’s reach.
Last summer, five Red Clay nurses were accepted into the competitive and prestigious Johnson & Johnson Fellowship program in school health leadership, held at Rutgers University. Upon their return, they helped DPH promote September’s Prescription Drug Take-Back Day on the radio, in school newsletters, through e-mail, and Parent-Teacher-Student Association presentations. In November, they addressed Attorney General Biden’s Prescription Drug Abuse Summit. One nurse sits on the Education Committee that reports to the State of Delaware’s Prescription Drug Action Committee.
The school nurse team consists of: Fioravanti from A.I. du Pont High School; Sharon-Rose Gargula from Stanton Middle School; Fran Russo-Avena from Richardson Park Learning Center; Kathleen M. Bugbee from North Star Elementary School; Rebecca King from Brandywine Springs School; and Tawanda Bond, assistant principal of AIHS as the administrative sponsor.
“Since school nurses are on the front lines, we have a unique opportunity to raise awareness of the risks of prescription drug abuse and to influence our students’ behaviors through education,” said Megan S. Fioravanti, RN, BSN, NCSN, school nurse at AIHS. She noted that except for marijuana, more teenagers’ abuse prescription drugs than illegal drugs.
Education materials will also be posted on the DPH website as the partners undertake an education campaign to share the materials and information with school nurses and families statewide. In March, the nurses will distribute the program to all of Delaware’s school nurses and their schools at the Delaware School Nurses Association Winter Conference.
Delaware Health and Social Services Secretary Rita Landgraf praised the endeavors and partnership with DPH: “Today’s announcement by these energetic and caring school nurses has our full support, as we are all committed to reducing prescription drug abuse under the strong leadership of Governor Markell.”
Added Dr. Karyl Rattay, DPH director, “Too many adults and youth are mired in an addiction to prescription drugs. The partnership between Public Health and the school nurses is a vital part of our on-going strategy to fight this terrible problem in Delaware.”
Accidental poisoning deaths have surpassed motor vehicle injuries in Delaware. The state ranked ninth in the country for the number of drug overdoses in 2009 (the most recent data we have available). And, of the drug overdoses in Delaware, 80 percent of them involve one or more prescription drugs. Mortality rates in which prescription drugs were implicated increased nearly fourfold between 1999 and 2009.
To address this serious problem, parents and caregivers are advised to:
- Take Action now: what is in your medicine cabinet?
- Dispose of expired and unused medications.
- Know the common signs of abuse:
- Physical and psychological changes, including changes in school performance.
- Drugs missing from medicine cabinet.
- Talk to their teens in regular and non-judgmental conversations.
- Share the dangers of drug abuse, including prescription drugs. Research shows teens are less likely to use drugs when educated by parents.
School nurses play an important role in educating their families to:
- Know what is in the medicine cabinet and how to properly dispose of unused drugs. Prescription drug disposal tips are at www.fda.gov and/or people can participate in the next Prescription Drug Take-Back Day scheduled for April 27, 2013 statewide.
- Educate their children and teens on the dangers of prescription drug abuse.
- Reinforce that medications should be used as prescribed and never shared.
- Be aware that prescription drug addiction is a very real threat.
- Use the impairment assessment to determine if a student could be abusing prescription drugs.
Teens should be taught:
- If someone offers you prescription drugs, say no.
- Talk to your parents or caregiver if you feel pressured to take prescription drugs not your own.
- Do not share prescription drugs with anyone. It’s unsafe and illegal.
- Take prescription drugs exactly as prescribed.
- Know the signs of addiction.
“Attorney General Biden was pleased to include these dedicated and visionary school nurses in our November Prescription Drug Abuse Summit,” said Christina Showalter, Medicaid Fraud director, Office of the Attorney General. “Educating young Delawareans about the dangers of this epidemic is an essential step in combating the crisis in our state. Their commitment to bring this program to Delaware should be commended. We are excited to have them as partners in the fight to reduce this epidemic in our state.”
The project is in partnership with the Prescription Drug Action Committee. Working with numerous partners, DPH and the Medical Society of Delaware is leading an effort to examine the prescription drug problem in Delaware and propose meaningful, real-world solutions. PDAC is a broad and diverse group that includes physicians, community-based organizations, behavioral health partners, hospital systems, pain management specialists, law enforcement, pharmaceutical representatives, medical professional regulators, retail pharmacy representation as well as public and private payers. The group will announce its recommendations in spring 2013.
Note: the next Prescription Drug Take-Back Day is April 27, 2013. The statewide event is an opportunity to anonymously and safely dispose of prescription drugs. To find a collection site near you, visit: www.delawarehealthyhomes.gov or call 1-800-882-9539.
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