Group beginning fight on prescription-drug abuse
Representatives from Caldwell County law enforcement agencies, social services, schools, hospitals, pharmacies and more gathered Friday morning to talk about how to start the fight against prescription drug overdoses in the county.
Deaths by unintentional prescription overdoses is an “epidemic in Caldwell County,” said Terry Hunt, pastor at The Life Center Church in Lenoir.
Lenoir Police Chief Scott Brown noted that in 2012, 47 visits to Caldwell Memorial Hospital were for prescription drug overdoses, and nine county residents died from overdoses. While that may not sound like a lot, he said, “when you look at the emotional impact that has on families, it is a big deal.”
Caldwell County Leaders for CHANGE, a group of community leaders formed years ago to help fight issues like teenage pregnancy and gangs in the county, played host to the meeting to start work with Project Lazarus. Project Lazarus began in Wilkes County to combat prescription drug abuse there, and now the model is being used in counties across the state.
Fred Brayson started Project Lazarus in 2008, after learning that Wilkes County had the third highest rate of drug overdose deaths in the U.S. Through community organizing, educational outreach and initiatives to help people use and dispose of prescription drugs properly, the rate of prescription deaths in Wilkes County fell by 69 percent.
Efforts are already underway in Caldwell County to help fight prescription drug misuse, including medicine drop boxes set up at local police stations and the sheriff’s office.
At they Lenoir Police Department’s drop box, so many unwanted or expired prescription medications have been disposed that the department stopped counting in dosage units and started just weighing the discarded medications. Brown said 66 pounds were collected in just the first quarter of having the drop box. At the Caldwell County Sheriff’s Office, the drop box has collected about 200,000 dosage units, Sheriff Alan Jones said.
In Lenoir, Brown said, around 10,000 informational leaflets will be mailed along with water bills, providing information on how to safely handle prescription drugs.
The group’s next step is to hold a community meeting with Brayson, hoping to gather at least 100 attendees, scheduled for March 7 at 11:30 a.m. at the Caldwell County Education Center, across from the J. E. Broyhill Civic Center on U.S. 321 in Lenoir.