In 2008 United Way conducted a county wide human services needs assessment. We canvassed the county to gather input from residents via surveys and focus groups that were held throughout the county. The results were a real eye-opener. Fifty seven percent of respondents said that substance abuse is a major concern in Rutherford County. When asked to prioritize the top concerns in the county, residents ranked substance abuse as the number two concern, second only to unemployment. Twelve percent of respondents actually ranked substance abuse as the number one concern.
Because that assessment was focused on identifying broad concerns, our survey tools did not ask comprehensive questions about specific types of substance abuse. So United Way began gathering data from a variety of sources to learn more about the drug issues affecting our community. We formed a group called the Community Engagement Team (CET) comprised of representatives from law enforcement, the school system, Isothermal Community College, Rutherford Hospital, Forest City Housing Authority, the cooperative Extension, Western Highlands Network, local behavioral health and substance abuse treatment providers, the faith community, business owners and concerned residents. Our first step was to drill down and learn more about the drugs that were harming our friends and neighbors. What we discovered is rather alarming. More people in our county have died from accidental drug overdoses than from car accidents in recent years.
In 2006, substance abuse related visits to the emergency room in Rutherford County among people under age 18 were below the state average according to NC Detect, an organization that tracks statewide hospital trends. In 2007, Rutherford County shot to number one in the state for the number of substance abuse related E.R. visits (per capita) among those under 18. The statistics are equally grim for adults. NC Detect reports that substance abuse related E.R. visits among adults were on par with the state average but in 2007 shot to number two in the state. While that information does not denote what type of substance the patients had ingested, additional data demonstrates that prescription drug abuse is hitting Rutherford County exceptionally hard:
So what can you do to help combat drug use in Rutherford County? CET makes it simple to be a part of the effort. Everyone is welcome to attend our monthly meetings. They are held the fourth Tuesday of each month at 10 am, generally at the United Way building at 668 Withrow Rd. in Forest City.
--Dispose of your unused/expired medications using the permanent medicine drop box located in the lobby of the Rutherford County Sheriff's Office. The drop box is accessible Monday - Friday, 8:30 am to 5 pm. You simply drop your medications in the box. NO questions asked. It's safe, It's easy.
--Help promote outreach events such as the Operation Medicine Drop.
--Invite CET to come speak at other civic groups, parents groups, church groups, business events and any other local functions to help spread the word about the importance of proper medication disposal and prevention efforts geared towards out youth.
For more information, contact Suzanne Porter at United Way: 286-3929 or cell: 813-601-9881 or Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Our friends and neighbors are dying…
Rutherford County’s fatal, unintentional overdose rate is 25.3% per 100,000. That’s more than double the state average of 10.3 per 100,000. These deaths are classified as accidental overdoses-- not suicides-- and 77% are attributed to prescription drugs (Source: NC State Center for Health Statistics). As a medical expert and authorized prescriber, you are uniquely qualified to help us reverse this deadly trend. And we would like to offer you the resources and support to get started. But first, a few facts about the Rx drug issue we face locally.
We have huge amounts of controlled substances available in our community…
Rutherford County is ranked #5 in state for the top number of controlled substance prescriptions dispensed. An average of 14,581 controlled substance prescriptions were filled EVERY MONTH in Rutherford County in 2009. The prescription rate jumped to an average of 16,492 controlled substance prescriptions filled MONTHLY in 2010. The more drugs available in the community, the easier it is for the wrong people to get their hands on them. (Source: Project Lazarus and State Bureau of Investigation).
Emergency Room Deluged…
On average, one overdose patient is treated daily in the emergency room at Rutherford Regional Medical Center according to interviews with the Emergency Room Medical Director and Emergency Room support staff in October 2010. In 2006, substance abuse related visits to the emergency room in Rutherford County among people under age 18 were below the state average according to NC Detect, an organization that tracks statewide hospital trends. In 2007, Rutherford County shot to number one in the state for the number of substance abuse related E.R. visits (per capita) among those under 18. The statistics are equally grim for adults. NC Detect reports that substance abuse related E.R. visits among adults were on par with the state average but in 2007 shot to number two in the state.
So how can you help?
United Way’s Community Engagement Team is a substance abuse prevention coalition. We are working with local law enforcement and other community partners to address Rx drug abuse in Rutherford County. Thanks to grant funding through Wake Forest University and the Appalachian Regional Commission, we will be hosting trainings designed specifically for members of the medical community—physicians, pharmacists, dentists, and various medical support staff. The trainings will provide greater insight into addiction issues, teach you and your colleagues about the local trends in drug abuse, and provide role play and training opportunities with local law enforcement for recognizing “doctor shopping” and other methods of Rx drug fraud and diversion. The trainings are free, most qualify for CEUs and meals will be provided.
We also encourage you to get involved with the Community Engagement Team as we begin unveiling other local initiatives, such as a permanent Rx drug disposal program in partnership with the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office. We need champions like you to advocate the importance of these trainings to your colleagues. We appreciate all the encouragement and support you can provide. For more information about the Community Engagement Team, please call United Way at 286-3929.