A program for prescription drug abuse prevention has expanded its presence in Tennessee, adding 26 counties to its program list.
Count it! Lock it! Drop it! (CLD) is a comprehensive community program based in Coffee County, Tennessee, and it is dedicated to fighting prescription drug abuse. The program uses its name as a teaching mantra for responsible usage of prescription drugs, advising prescription medicine users to count their pills, lock them in a safe place and drop off unused or expired medicine at disposal boxes.
With this three-step process, CLD hopes that users can prevent themselves from developing prescription drug addictions.
A report by the Tennessee Department of Health in 2015 stated that at least 1,451 Tennesseans died from drug overdoses that year. Broken down, the numbers mean there were 22 drug overdose deaths for every 100,000 Tennesseans. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also named Tennessee as a state that demonstrated a statistically significant increase in drug overdose death rates from 2014 to 2015, at 13.8 percent. The CDC also reported that Tennessee was third in the country for highest opioid prescribing rates in 2016, behind Alabama and Arkansas, respectively.
“It [prescription drug addiction] is unlike any drug epidemic we have seen,” said Kristina Clark, CLD co-founder and project manager. “It has affected older people who have had hip replacement surgery to college kids under a lot of stress.”
Because this type of drug abuse is spreading “across the board in all age brackets,” Clark said that CLD’s message needs to be heard, especially by youth.
“All youth are vulnerable if we can’t get the message of the harmful nature out,” Clark said with the thought that this message could resonate particularly with college students.
“This [college campus] is a huge area we could grow into,” Clark said. Colleges like East Tennessee State University are currently involved with CLD, and Clark said the program wants to get UT involved as well. If UT were to get involved with CLD, the program’s plans would include working with resident advisers to ensure that students know they have resources in case of drug struggles or overdoses.
With the program’s expansion, it currently represents 58 Tennessee counties, including Knox County, and received a grant from The BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Health Foundation in June 2016 to fund its efforts to reach counties with high numbers of dispensed prescriptions, overdose deaths and babies born with neonatal abstinence syndrome.
Other than from BlueCross BlueShield Tennessee’s funding, Clark credited some of CLD’s growth to the fact that the program has been building a community, going “door to door, talking to people.”
“Right now, we are focusing on building infrastructure,” Clark said. “We are making sure that we are doing this with people, not to them.”
According to the CLD website, another of the program’s goals for 2017 is to “expand to more counties throughout the state, particularly where prescription drug misuse is especially prevalent.” By the end of next year, Clark said she hopes that every county in Tennessee will be taking part in the program.
Angie Dickens, executive director of the Johnson County A.C.T.I.O.N. Coalition, has been working with CLD in her county to execute these three steps and reduce easy access to prescription drugs.
“Other counties getting involved with this program is important because prescription drug abuse is such an epidemic in Tennessee, and it has such a great comprehensive program that gives us the tools to make an impact on our community today,” Dickens said.
CLD has also worked closely with the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation in Kentucky since 2009. To continually better the program, CLD sends out surveys in the counties it is working in to evaluate the effects it is having on the local communities, which can help out the community in turn.
“Communities that are working with CLD are getting higher feedback at drug disposal sites,” Clark said.
While a focus on prescription drug abuse is intended, CLD is aware of the current heroin epidemic and is looking into adding a heroin abuse prevention into its program.
“We are not just a package deal,” Clark said. “We are always evolving to help our communities.”