Editorial: The struggle is real
It’s no secret that the United States of America is in a crisis situation with regard to the abuse of prescription drugs, and Northwest Colorado has been hit particularly hard by this deeply disturbing trend.
That’s why we were so encouraged by last week’s news that a local group has won federal grant funding to support prescription drug abuse prevention efforts in Moffat, Routt, and Grand counties.
On Friday, Aug. 31, the Craig Press reported that Grand Futures Prevention Coalition had been awarded a $150,000 grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, a branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, to help create youth prevention programming in Moffat, Routt, and Grand counties for the next three years.
It was noted that Grand Futures was the only Colorado organization to receive such funding under the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, or CARA.
The grant funds will be used primarily to raise awareness of the problem and create educational programs designed to help area youth make informed decisions about drug use.
We feel this is a sensible approach to countering the insidious and growing trend of prescription drug abuse, because preventing a problem from materializing is almost always easier and more effective than addressing a problem once it has emerged.
And what better place to begin creating new mindsets with regard to drugs and drug abuse than with our children?
Frankly, we were horrified to learn that a 2015 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey revealed that 14.8 percent of youth age 12 to 18 in Moffat, Routt, and Grand counties have taken prescription medication without a prescription in their lifetimes; that figure is 1 percent higher than the state average and 11 percent higher than the national average.
But the percentages, while sobering, are beside the point. In our estimation, if only one child takes a prescription pill without a prescription, that’s one child too many.
That’s why early education is so vital and why we have such high hopes for the CARA grant.
The funding will be used to support a number of specific strategies, including a youth summit, educational opportunities for adults and concerned community members, community events to drive awareness and help destigmatize the disease of addiction, develop educational materials for patients, create an online resources library, partner with local schools to establish an opioid prevention curriculum, and create additional prescription drug disposal sites in each of the three counties.
Will this, in and of itself, solve the prescription drug crisis?
In a recent interview with the Craig Press, U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton rightly pointed out that effectively addressing the nation’s — and the region’s — opioid crisis will not come in the form of a single, silver bullet, but rather as a multi-pronged approach to a multi-faceted problem.
“Obviously, it’s not something the federal government alone is going to be able to solve,” Tipton said. “It’s going to take collaborative effort with our state governments, our counties, our city governments, and our families, as well.”
On this point, we are in complete agreement with the congressman.
The solution will be neither quick nor easy.
It will require personal responsibility, such as ensuring unused prescription medications are properly disposed of. It will require thoughtful legislation that recognizes addiction as a disease rather than a character flaw. It will require revised medical protocols that balance the legitimate need for such drugs with the recognition that unwitting addiction is a real possibility.
All these factors will have to be considered in developing overarching strategies.
But it seems self-evident that providing our youth with the education and tools they need to make informed, prudent choices is the bedrock upon which an effective strategy can be built.
Grand Futures — with the help of these grant funds — is working to establish that bedrock, and we offer our wholehearted support.
In today’s digital age, it isn’t comforting to know Craig hasn’t yet fully joined the rest of the industrialized world’s instant interconnectedness brought about by fast and reliable internet.