Our network of K-12 teachers is EVERFI’s heartbeat. That’s why we’ve launched Educator Spotlights: Stories from the Classroom. Every couple of months, we’ll invite you inside the classrooms of inspiring educators to get a glimpse into how and why they keep doing what they do. Enjoy!
“Be sure to know your student audience. If there are any particular concerns, have available [additional] resources where you can direct students to get help if they need it for themselves or their families.”
Teacher: Carrie Snyder-Renfro
Subject: Family Consumer Sciences & Career Technology Education, Grades 7-12
School: Oklahoma Centennial High School, OK
FCS and CTE educator Carrie Snyder-Renfro is using EVERFI’s Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention resource with her high school students and finds them deeply interested in the issues covered throughout the program. Here, she shares what her students like best about the resource and how she complements the online program with offline resources to make sure that students and their families feel supported and have access to the information they need to make informed decisions.
Want to share a story from your classroom? Reach out to Lisa at email@example.com.
For many, the topic of prescription drug abuse prevention brings back memories of televised public service announcements, large assembly-style lectures in schools, or family-focused programs. As a result, people often overlook the critical role of hospitals in helping to stem this nationwide epidemic. Large healthcare facilities are frequently perceived as only acute-care providers treating overdoses or addiction-related incidents. But hospitals can, and should, be significant players in the upstream fight to prevent prescription drug abuse.
Anyone working within a health system today knows that the severity of the U.S.’s opioid epidemic cannot be overstated. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that 91 Americans die every day from opioid overdoses and that opioid-related deaths have quadrupled in less than twenty years—and hospitals are predominantly where these patients first receive care. While doctors have worked to reduce the number of opioid prescriptions written, healthcare systems, hospitals, and other care facilities are looking for additional ways to prevent prescription drug abuse, including education programs.
There are three primary reasons why more health systems are implementing opioid and prescription drug abuse prevention programs:
1) Positioning hospital systems as community leaders
Hospitals are uniquely positioned to educate their communities on prescription drug safety and the potential for misuse and addiction because of their central role in community healthcare. Increasingly, health systems are embracing this unique position and are leveraging it—with positive impact. They know that community investment will bring tenfold returns in terms of both cost of care and patient outcomes. Some have even sought out partnerships with local educators, school districts, and administrators to grow their community engagement and spread prevention awareness among a critical demographic: the youth.
Why engage with schools? Hospitals, clinicians, and nurses already contribute extensively to the wellbeing of the community, and a prevention program in schools is a natural extension of this care, interest, and engagement. Prescription drug safety education creates a more knowledgeable population and can foster productive conversations between patients and providers. This ultimately creates a win-win for all involved: helping the community understand a critical issue, while also improving health outcomes—and elevating hospitals’ roles as community health leaders.
2) Controlling costs
Hospital administrators are forced to juggle the competing needs of community and institutional goals, as well as compliance and cost. The great news is that prevention programs are not just effective—they’re also highly cost efficient. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), for every dollar spent on prevention, there’s a twenty dollar savings in other public costs—including health care. With fewer patients seeking treatment for substance use disorders, hospital systems will feel the financial benefit of a measurable and effective prevention initiative in their communities.
3) Managing accountability and compliance
Increasingly, health systems are being held accountable for patient outcomes. This trend is expressing itself in a number of ways. For example, Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) have their financial outcomes tied directly to quality and efficiency, while the community health needs assessments (CHNA) required by the Affordable Care Act help nonprofit health systems focus on community engagement.
Faced with more demanding requirements for accountability and long-term health outcomes, substance abuse and misuse programs offer an effective and community-focused solution. Hospitals that support and implement prevention programs can reference the impact and efficacy as it relates to overall quality, accountability, and compliance requirements.
Partnering for Prevention Success
The effort to produce an effective, cost-saving, and community-scalable prescription drug safety education program might feel like a heavy lift, but you don’t have to go it alone.
To learn more about EVERFI’s Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention (PDAP) course, how it measures outcomes, and the turnkey school implementation on your behalf, visit EVERFI.com/prescription-drug-safety-network/ today.
As we observe the 14th annual National Drug Take Back Day, which is designed to highlight the importance of properly disposing of unused prescription medication in order to prevent accidental abuse and misuse, it’s important to reflect on the impact prevention education can have in sustaining healthy and safe communities.
Last year’s National Take Back Day set a record—893,498 pounds of unwanted medicines—about 447 tons—safely deposited at almost 5,400 sites spread through all 50 states, but imagine how much more we can do if we spread the message of prevention through measurable education.
The Prescription Drug Safety Network is a national coalition of partners committed to using prevention education to empower Americans with the skills to make safe and healthy decisions for themselves, their families, and their communities. One of the network’s main initiatives is an evidence-based drug safety curriculum digital platform to educate at risk youth and their families about the safe storage and disposal of prescription drugs.
How to Safely Dispose of Prescription Drugs
Medicines that are no longer being used can pose unnecessary dangers to families and youth in particular. Drug Take Back Days raise awareness about prescription drug safety and provide an opportunity for individuals to properly dispose of unwanted prescription drugs at a growing number of locations nationwide. Individuals can search for a Drug Take Back site at the DEA’s webpage or by calling 1-800-882-9539.
Why Safe Prescription Drug Disposal Matters
According to the CDC 1 in 5 high school seniors report having misused prescription drugs at least once. Two-thirds of teenagers who use prescription drugs for nonmedical reasons report getting the drugs from friends or family members, including taking them from medicine cabinets without people knowing. As a result, the importance of properly securing prescription medications, especially opioids, is even more critical.
Seventy-eight people die each day from opioid overdose, and another 20.8 million have a substance use disorder according to the U.S. Surgeon General’s report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health. Young people are particularly vulnerable, The National Institute of Health’s Institute on Drug Abuse reports that nonmedical use of prescription drugs is highest among young adults aged 18 to 25.
Many people who misuse medications or opioids get their first dose by using medications prescribed to others. The growing epidemic of abuse, misuse, dependence, and overdose of opioids in the United States is deeply concerning and it is important that we protect our communities by stopping the abuse before it begins through prevention education.
Below are some images and a video from EVERFI’s Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention course, which launched this fall. The course features highly interactive digital learning modules that cover topics such as: proper prescription drug storage and disposal, the science of addiction, interpreting drug labels, refusal skills and other critical skills.
“We know that prevention works. For every $1 invested in treatment, we save $4 in healthcare costs. That’s a pretty good investment. But we also know that when it comes to prevention, there are some programs that return up to $64 for every one dollar invested. These tend to be programs that are based in schools or in communities.” — Vivek Murthy, former US Surgeon General
In the U.S., there are more than 1,400 facilities actively treating substance abuse and addiction, yet a surprisingly small percentage of people in need of treatment actually receive it. Meanwhile, deaths from accidental overdose have risen from around 35,000 per year to more than 60,000 per year in the last decade. The grim truth is that the opioid epidemic is growing faster and claiming more lives than the healthcare system can realistically treat. Treatment alone cannot solve the problem, but prevention—a critical key to curbing the epidemic—has been largely sidelined.
Treatment and prevention: finding the balance
Current efforts to fight opioid addiction are imbalanced, with a greater focus on treatment than prevention. SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) grants are a perfect example of this disparity. While the organization’s mission does promote and implement prevention and early intervention, SAMHSA’s grants focus 80 percent on treatment and only 20 percent on prevention.
Admittedly, allocating resources is tricky. But this imbalance is a paradox that can be found throughout the healthcare industry: while it’s absolutely critical to treat acute cases and save lives, treatment seems to come at the expense of resources that might be used to intervene before acute life-saving treatment is necessary.
In an ideal world, both treatment and prevention would be given unlimited resources. In the real world, a balance must be struck. The good news is that prevention requires far fewer resources than treatment. Compared with the high costs of addiction treatment, prevention programs can be carried out for comparative pennies on the dollar. And the ROI is powerful: SAMHSA reports that for every dollar spent on prevention, there’s almost twenty dollars in savings in healthcare, social, law enforcement, and other public costs.
The case for early opioid prevention
By targeting teenagers—and potentially younger children—with drug abuse education programs before mistakes are made and patterns are set, addiction can be averted. Studies by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) have demonstrated that the perception of danger around a behavior reduces the practice of that behavior. Cigarette smoking among teenagers, for example, is at its lowest rate in over 40 years, while marijuana use is up—both practices tracking to public perceptions of the dangers of each. Research-based educational intervention, according to the NIDA, can significantly reduce the early use of illicit substances, including opioids. Considering that that nine out of ten addictions are formed during the teen and young adult years, curbing early use could have massive preventative impact on all future opioid usage.
We’re now in crisis mode, and treatment of existing addiction is crucial for a population already ravaged by an opioid epidemic. But truly stemming this crisis requires a population-level approach to prevention—and that involves education at an early age, before patterns are set, mistakes are made, and the damage is done. When it comes to the question treatment or prevention, the answer is: both.
The growing crisis of opioid addiction in the U.S. is expensive in both economic terms—at an annual cost of nearly $80 billion in healthcare and public-sector expenses—and human terms, with 40 lives lost daily to prescription opioid overdose. As states begin to research solutions to this critical problem, there is a strong case to be made for prevention through education—specifically, prevention programs targeting teenagers.
Prescription drug abuse touches every demographic.
When it comes to opioid abuse, there is a gap between reality and perception. While parents overwhelmingly assume that their children’s friends, school environments, or others are the sources of misused medications, the reality is that more than half of all teens claim they have easy access to prescription drugs at home. Far from stereotypes of rebellious teens experimenting illicitly, prescription drug abuse occurs across every student demographic.
The numbers are sobering. More than 90 percent of substance addictions begin in the teen or young adult years. A quarter of American teens admit to having misused prescription drugs at least once; by their sophomore year in college, about half will have been given the opportunity to try illegal prescription medications. If negative outcomes are to be prevented, it’s crucial to engage all students as they’re developing awareness of these substances—and before patterns of misuse have taken hold.
Prescription drug education saves lives—and dollars.
Once addiction sets in, outcomes and expenses can be difficult to manage. More than two million Americans are currently struggling with opioid-related addiction, and drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S. As addiction levels rise, the epidemic is rapidly driving up private insurance and healthcare expenses—with the aggregated costs for opioid-addicted patients increasing more than tenfold in just a few years.
By comparison, the cost of preventative education is very low. In fact, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that effective drug abuse education programs can save a staggering $18 for every dollar invested. These savings have wide-ranging benefits across society—from easing the burden of treatment and law enforcement expenses, to a reduction in healthcare and social costs that result from an improved quality of life.
Intervene with education early.
By intervening during the high school years, the incidence and impact of opioid addiction can be reduced significantly—if the education programs employed are effective. In the context of today’s sophisticated and digitally savvy teens, this means that educational programming must be compelling, interactive, and presented in easily digestible ways. Perhaps most importantly, the results must be trackable in order to prove efficacy. If these criteria can be met, and the educational programs are scalable enough to reach large populations, our communities can begin to reshape the addiction landscape—saving lives and ensuring that students have healthy futures.
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