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Published: Tuesday, 9/14/2010

Medicine Chest Challenge encourages disposal of old or unwanted medicine

BY JANET ROMAKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Kathy Schnapp isn't snoopy, but she does wonder what people have in their medicine cabinets.

As the new executive director of the Community Partnership, Ms. Schnapp will be helping to launch a public health campaign this fall as part of the American Medicine Chest Challenge. She and others will encourage Lucas County residents to properly dispose of unused, unwanted, and expired medicine.

It's not about making space or clearing clutter, though. It's about working to address prescription drug abuse, which is a problem in Lucas County.

The American Medicine Chest Challenge was founded as a community-based public health initiative, with law enforcement partnership, designed to raise awareness about the dangers of prescription drug abuse and provide a nationwide day dedicated to the disposal of unused, unwanted, and expired medicine.

This year the event will be held Nov. 13.

Locally, the American Medicine Chest Challenge campaign will be conducted in partnership with several other entities in the community, said Ms. Schnapp of Waterville.

As the Community Partnership's name suggests, it is an organization in which collaboration with others is key.

Its mission is to bring community resources together to address alcohol, tobacco, and other drug prevention and intervention issues to promote an environment that encourages healthy lifestyles.

For example, the Community Partnership staff will work with law enforcement officials, St. Luke's Hospital, and others as part of the medicine-chest challenge, she said.

Residents might have medications, no longer needed or out of date, at their homes that could be obtained and used by their children or by people who visit their homes.

"Kids are abusing prescription drugs. We need to work collectively as a community to address that. That's what the Community Partnership does."

The Community Partnership's 2010 Lucas County Youth Survey showed that use of painkillers by youth is increasing or maintaining its prevalence.

"I think it is the access to the drugs and the lack of perception of harm," Ms. Schnapp said.

And it isn't just children who are abusing prescription drugs. Adults are doing so as well, she said.

In October, as part of Red Ribbon Week, the Community Partnership will hold a news conference to talk about what actions will be planned to address the issues raised in the survey as well as other issues in the community, she said.

The partnership, funded by the Lucas County Mental Health and Recovery Services Board and the Ohio Department of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services, is a coalition of individuals and organizations that have come together to work toward a common goal.

Primary goals are to delay the onset of use among young people, to decrease high-risk use, to increase the perception of harm of substance use, and increase the perception of disapproval of substance use.

Other adjustments are being made at the Community Partnership.

The staff has been downsized along with its office space. The organization has moved from Southwyck Boulevard in Toledo to 2428 Sylvania Ave., Toledo.

Downsizing was necessary because of financial constraints.

"We decided to be good stewards of money we have, We decided to downsize staff and our location. We are operating more cost effectively. We are looking to find continuing funding," said Ms. Schnapp, who replaces Cathy Sperling, interim director, who recently retired.

Changes were announced by Hans Giller, a member of the board of trustees of The Lucas County Community Prevention Partnership, doing business as The Community Partnership.

Although the Community Partnership has been downsized, "it is still a viable asset in the community," Mr. Giller said.

"We are going to regrow. We will focus on collaboration with other agencies, with other groups, to address concerns of the community."

There will be a refocus on prevention issues, he said.

One goal will be to develop a strategic plan.

Staff will conduct research to find out what issues the community views as important, he said.

For instance, the Community Partnership's involvement in the medicine-chest campaign is directly linked to what its partners in the community have been saying.

Partners doing direct service, such as hospitals, law enforcement officials, teachers, and mental health agencies, said prescription drug abuse is a concern. "They were saying here is something we are worried about and what can we do to address it," he said.

Prevention efforts related to prescription drug use is a "major concern in Lucas County," Mr. Giller said, and setting up drop-off sites where people can turn in unwanted medicines is one of the goals.

The Community Partnership serves as a facilitator, bringing the pieces together, he said, as part of ground-level prevention. "Policy changing is just as important," he said, such as changing the public's views on prescription drugs - making sure people take them as directed and making sure drugs are disposed of properly.



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