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Fighting drug abuse: Drop box is one way to keep unwanted meds out of kids’ hands
Members of the San Tan Valley Substance Abuse Coalition met April 29 to discuss its Crisis Network, RX Medication Disposal Drop Box and other projects. (Photo by Wendy Miller, Independent Newsmedia Inc. USA)

San Tan Valley has another tool to keep prescription medicine away from children and out of the local water supply.

The RX Medication Disposal Drop Box is a place to bring unused prescription medications. A partnership of the San Tan Valley Substance Abuse Coalition, Pinal County Sheriff’s Office, Pinal County Attorney’s Office and Rural/Metro Fire Department, the drop box was introduced March 12 at the Rural/Metro fire station, 28353 N. Main St. in San Tan Valley.

It is open 8 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. People may dispose of prescription patches, medications and ointments as well as over-the-counter medications, vitamins, pharmaceutical samples and pet medications, according to STVSAC.

The drop box is one of many projects the STVSAC is working on, Sheri George, the coalition’s chairwoman, told the Independent.

The coalition’s No. 1 mission is to provide resources to families and individuals who are suffering with substance abuse and/or mental health issues and act as a navigation point to come back to if they do not get the assistance they need from those referral entities, Ms. George told the Independent by e-mail last week.

Among the group’s accomplishments, she said, is spearheading and partnering with PCSO, the Pinal County Attorney’s Office, and the J.O Combs, Florence and Coolidge Unified school districts to bring the Scottsdale-based notMykid substance abuse program to all 15 middle and high schools. “The educational series targets students, parents and faculty separately to educate the community about the consequences of destructive youth behaviors,” she said.

During the April 19 event, free First Check drug test kits, resources and educational materials were distributed to parents to help combat National Get High Day, April 20. NMK has found, through experience, keeping a drug test kit in the home gives a child the opportunity to refuse drugs, when offered, by explaining their parents drug-test them, Ms. George said.

Another is the Crisis Network, which held its second meeting April 29.
“The coalition is partnering with multiple agencies to look into the implementation of immediate behavioral health crisis team deployment, where there is a high-threat mental health situation, when 911 is called, for a better long-term outcome, in Florence and San Tan Valley,” Ms. George told the Independent by e-mail. “Eleven agencies are represented, along with coalition members and local physicians. April 29 marked our second meeting, with future meetings scheduled in June and July. A subcommittee of critical stakeholders was established at that gathering to meet in June to consider the issues and then make recommendations in the July meeting.”

People in need of help are making their way to local groups, such as the STVSAC, for help. Jesse Rivera is one of them.

His stepson began experimenting with pot when he was around 12 or 13, Mr. Rivera, who attended the April 29 STVSAC meeting, believes. Changes in his behavior were not immediately evident because his stepson has attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. People with ADHD may have trouble paying attention, controlling impulsive behaviors (may act without thinking about what the result will be), or be overly active, according to the Centers for Disease Control website, www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/. Today, the stepson is in jail on a non-related charge and is not receiving help with his addictions, Mr. Rivera told the Independent last week.

A recovering alcoholic and addict who has been clean for 30 years, Mr. Rivera was able to detect the signs of substance abuse in his stepson, who admitted using marijuana, he said.

“He’s extremely honest. I tried to get him some help. I took him to 12-step meetings with me, but then his mother and I moved here and he stayed with his dad in California,” Mr. Rivera said. “While there, his use escalated to pills, meth and eventually heroin. It was too much for his dad to handle and he moved here with us.”

That was about three years ago, when his stepson was 22 years old. The stepson’s use continued, until Mr. Rivera and his wife eventually kicked him out of the house, he said. They got him a place to stay and paid his rent but were unable to find the young man the help he needed to quit, Mr. Rivera said.

They took him to several treatment facilities in central Arizona, where he would go through withdrawal and then be released. They were unable to place him in a residential treatment center when he could receive extended care, Mr. Rivera said.

In September 2012, the stepson was arrested on the charge of stealing cigarettes and was incarcerated.

“There’s not even a one-step meeting there. No Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous,” Mr. Rivera said. Without treatment for substance abuse, Mr. Rivera is afraid his stepson will come out of jail with a worse problem.

“The system was set up to rehabilitate, but my stepson is being punished,” he told the Independent.

On April 29, Mr. Rivera and his wife attended their first STVSAC meeting. They hope the coalition can help set up a treatment program with the criminal justice system to help people with substance abuse problems obtain help.

Not all people who contact STVSAC are seeking assistance for substance abuse. Some need medication to correct a physical problem.

C.J. Farmer suffers from bipolar disorder, a major mood disorder in which the individual most commonly experiences episodes of depression and episodes of mania, according to the CDC.

She told the Independent she was “really out of control a couple years ago,” but did not know where to turn. She said the tipping point came after her 4-year-old son drowned while under another person’s care.

She didn’t know where to turn to. She didn’t want to eat. Then she ate too much. She didn’t want to get dressed, she said. Eventually her daughter told her “to get her butt off the couch,” Ms. Farmer said. She went to a mental facility in California, where she was prescribed Prozac to balance her mood swings.

Ms. Farmer’s mother heard about STVSAC during a senior breakfast in San Tan Valley and encouraged her to attend a meeting. Ms. Farmer has been an active member for six months, she said.

“I handed out drug-testing kits during the notMykid event and handed out fliers to promote the coalition’s medication disposal drop box,” she said.

STVSAC is looking for additional volunteers who are able to assist in any capacity and amount of time with current and future projects, Ms. George said.

Future projects include:

•Establish a 24/7 substance abuse/mental health facility.
•Find a non-denominational church location for a Parents of Addicted Loves Ones support group for anyone with an addicted loved one.
•Establish a teen addiction anonymous group.
•Establish a youth coalition and teen job bank.
•Coordinate a notMykid parent community event for each of the three school districts during the 2014 school year.

For more information about STVSAC, contact Ms. George at 480-525-3562 or stvcoalition@santanvalley.com, or visit http://stvsac.weebly.com/.

News Editor Wendy Miller can be contacted at 480-982-7799 and via e-mail at gilbertnews@newszap.com, or follow her on Twitter @WendyNewszap123.

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