Taking Action in the Battle Against Addiction--Vermont, Funeral Homes, Churches, Companies and Music Festivals
To many people, Vermont conjures an image of bucolic towns sporting church steeples, and great mountains for skiing. But like all states – addiction is a major problem there. In response, the governor gave a historic state-of-the-state speech in January, issuing a call to arms. Treatment Magazine called it pioneering, saying that Gov. Peter Shumlin devoted the entire address to the topic (which it said is rarely done), especially because of the surge in heroin abuse in the state.
It’s time to stop averting our eyes, the governor said, and stop fighting against having treatment facilities in our towns. He was referring to the criticism that Vermont’s Maple Leaf Farms Treatment Center received from some residents when the treatment center considered expanding its facility last year to offer more beds. (On a similar note, in a wealthy town near me in NJ, residents are fighting against having Oxford House, a sober living house, in its environs, after two residents overdosed on heroin. This is not the first time Oxford House has been criticized in my state—I wrote about the lack of support it receives from many residents [the NIMBY attitude] several years ago in an oped published in my local paper.)
It’s heartening to note the efforts that some organizations and companies are doing (whateverthey can) to raise awareness and lend a hand to fight addiction. A few months ago, the prosecutor’s office in Ocean County, NJ, where heroin overdoses are also sky high, started distributing “warning cards” through funeral homes, according to my local paper. The office hopes to “alert grieving family members and loved ones of the dangers of unused prescription medications.” On first reading this, I wondered if mourners might not feel this is a slap in the face if their loved one died of an overdose, but it seems their intent was to urge people to clear the deceased’s house of leftover prescription pills so no one else would get them.
Of course, churches have long been proactive in helping communities. A local church in Pennsylvania, Bethany Wesleyan Church, has a program called Family Wellness Program, Understanding Addiction and Recovery, offered by an executive from a nearby treatment center. Mickey Rowe was an executive at IB when he was fired years ago due to alcoholism. (Now here’s a question. Could that happen today?) Rowe entered treatment and afterward started pilot programs for families at two companies. Now his son, the executive at the treatment center, carries on his work.
Even the organizers of last October’s Tomorrow World, a music festival held in Atlanta, seem to be trying to help.
In including a non-profit called DanceSafe, they were trying to avoid the drug-related deaths that took place at other music festivals such as Electric Zoo in NYC, the New York Times noted. Members were set to roam the crowd distributing information on how to avoid overdoses, and a lounge was planned, where they would offer counseling.
This is common practice in Europe, the article said, but not everyone agrees this is an effective measure. A police official in the article said this seems to condone taking drugs, and the President of The Partnership at Drugfree.org said it plays down the threat of MDMA.
Finally, in December several media outlets, including WKYT in Kentucky, spread the news that the Pill Guard company has designed a container that it says is designed to combat prescription drug abuse by preventing a person from taking too many pills at one time. HealthCare Packaging magazine seemed to have the most in-depth coverage. The container is called PillSafe, and it’s currently being distributed in a pilot program. The container idea is attributed to a doctor who had a patient die from a drug overdose. Here’s what I learned:
“To dispense the drug, the patient pushes a button, and an internal timer keeps track of when the last pill was dispensed. If the button is pressed before the prescribed interval, the container will not release the medication. Should an individual attempt to force the mechanism or penetrate the bottle, a reactant next to the tablets will incinerate the contents in a matter of seconds.”
The company has to test for safety regarding the ingredients used.to incinerate the contents.
Photo (above left): Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin