While the coronavirus pandemic has brought new challenges, it has also given behavioral health providers the opportunity to find new ways to reach out to communities and hear from stakeholders on how to provide community support. The Community Coalition Alliance and its network of partners across the state hosted their first-ever tele-town hall to provide Floridians with education about the safe use, storage, and disposal of medications at a time when Americans are spending more time at home.
Elizabeth Nettles, Prevention Network Manager at LSF Health Systems, was one of the featured speakers during a telephone town hall of more than 1,500 attendees. The town hall was hosted via telephone to allow a greater number of participants as some communities’ access to the internet is limited.
Nettles spoke about the importance of discarding old and unused medications. She says while insightful information was exchanged, educating others remains important. “More information is needed regarding how to properly dispose of prescription and over-the-counter medications. Only 10% reported using disposal kits like Deterra,” says Nettles. As a result of the pandemic, the annual Florida Drug Enforcement Agency’s ‘Drug Take Back Day’ was not able to take place this year. Last year the DEA collected more than 70,000 pounds of drugs across Florida at the event. About 60% of Americans who are prescribed prescription pain medications keep leftover medications, more than 6 million Americans have misused prescription medications, and each day 2,500 youth abuse a prescription pain reliever for the first time.
The town hall, organized by Community Coalition Alliance and Rx Abuse Leadership Initiative in collaboration with Drug Free Duval and the PACT Prevention Coalition, featured other speakers including: Kathleen Roberts, Executive Director, Community Coalition Alliance; Lee Ashlock, Assistant Chief of Police, St. Augustine Beach Police Department; Susan Pitman, Northeast Florida Polysubstance Task Force, Drug Free Duval; Laura Viafora Ray, MPH, CPH, Project Director – The Safe and Healthy Neighborhoods Project, the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department; and Ben Cort, author and addiction treatment specialist.