Pinal County completes one year of success reducing prescription drug abuse; drug disposal box dedicated

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On Monday, the new MedReturn box was dedicated. Pictured from left are: District 8 Representative T.J. Shope, Jim Stephens (Volunteer Triad Coordinator), Kearny Mayor Sam Hosler, Kearny Police Chief Robert Ingulli and Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu. (Annette Barajas photo)


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On Monday, the new MedReturn box was dedicated at the Pinal Rural Fire Rescue Fire Station in Mammoth. Pictured from left are: Deanna Paine, District 8 Representative T.J. Shope, Bud Paine, Sheiff Paul Babeu, Mammoth Councilman Joe Brewer, Jim Stephens (Volunteer Triad Coordinator), and Mammoth Councilwoman Frances Wickham.

Florence – In November, to celebrate the first year of the Arizona Prescription Drug Misuse and Abuse Initiative in Pinal County, the Arizona Criminal Justice Commission, Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu, Pinal County Attorney Lando Voyles, Arizona Substance Abuse Partnership and the Pinal County Substance Abuse Council met to share statistics regarding the success of the program.

Designed as a multi-agency collaborative approach to reduce drug abuse in Arizona, the Initiative operates in three pilot counties: Yavapai, Pinal and Graham/Greenlee. currently operates in three pilot counties – Yavapai, Pinal and Graham/Greenlee – currently, and will be introduced into additional counties in the second phase of the Initiative.

ACJC credited experts from law enforcement, the prevention field and medical community, who participated in the development of the Initiative and creation of a set of data- and research-driven strategies.

There are five key strategies which these counties strive to achieve: reducing acquisition and diversion of prescription medication, education of prescribers and pharmacists, enhancing prescription drug practice and policies in law enforcement, increasing public awareness about the risks of prescription drug misuse; and building a resilience in children and adults.

Most notably, the public may recognize this initiative as it relates to the prescription drug drop-off box program, which has deployed 16 boxes that are currently operational throughout the county including at the Kearny Police Department and the Pinal Rural Fire Rescue station in Mammoth, and has collected 1,800 pounds of prescription medications, so far, in six take-back events.

Other accomplishments include Casa Grande Regional Medical Center, Banner Ironwood and Florence Hospital at Anthem implementing Emergency Department Guidelines; over 350 prescribers receiving quarterly report cards; and 75 professionals having received comprehensive “Best Practice” training or door-to-door approach

The Initiative reaches out to educate the public. 201 Law Enforcement Officers have received Rx Crimes curriculum. 1,951 youth and 441 adults have received the Rx360 curriculum. 5,096 people have been reached via community events. Over 175,749 people have been reached via public messaging and media methods

Pinal County Attorney Lando Voyles said, “Nearly an entire ton of unused and unnecessary prescription pills no longer pose a danger for abuse in our county. The significance of the number of incidents of accidental overdose and with reports linking abuse of prescription medications to heroin use – one report from Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration stating those who abuse are 19 times more likely to use – provide insight as to the importance of the success of this initiative. Pinal families benefit from knowing how to properly and safely store and dispose of unused prescriptions and doctors, pharmacists and law enforcement possess new tools and training to improve prevention and reduce abuse.”

Sheriff Paul Babeu said, “According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, deaths from drug overdose and abuse now exceed deaths from motor vehicle accidents in the United States. Elected officials and community leaders should be doing all we can to help address this national problem. Unneeded and unwanted prescription drugs need to be kept out of the hands of our children. Having Prescription Drug Drop-Off Boxes conveniently available to citizens throughout the year will have a tremendous impact on this problem.”

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