These active ETSU APhA–ASP Chapter members dedicate their time to educating local youth, patients at Remote Area Medical clinics, and health care students on prescription medication safety as part of their Generation Rx initiative.
By Megan Ferry
At East Tennessee State University (ETSU) Bill Gatton College of Pharmacy, it is the ongoing goal of the APhA–ASP Chapter’s Generation Rx initiative to adapt events to the needs that are prevalent in the Appalachian region. This goal allows committee members to connect with the people they are striving to help. Often, the medication-related issues that residents of our community face are similar to those that student pharmacists have seen in their own hometowns.
Prescription opioids are still the most common drugs associated with overdose deaths in Tennessee. The region of northeast Tennessee, where ETSU is located, has the highest concentration in the state for opioid-related overdose deaths. As a result, student leaders sought to expand previous outreach efforts that focused on Identification of at-risk individuals for an opioid overdose and provide them with naloxone and education.
Community opioid training
The committee focused on hosting opioid overdose trainings in community and health professional settings. Throughout the year, opioid overdose and naloxone-related education was provided to more than 3,700 individuals. Community trainings included Remote Area Medical (RAM) clinics in southwest Virginia and multiple community trainings hosted in counties surrounding the college. The RAM clinics proved particularly effective because student pharmacists were able to reach medically underserved and low-income individuals while partnering with the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services to dispense naloxone free of charge for those who attended trainings.
In addition to layperson trainings, the naloxone trainings that we held for health professionals are incredibly important components of addressing the opioid epidemic. Often, students in health care fields only receive a few lectures regarding appropriate prescribing and monitoring of opioid analgesics. Our naloxone trainings allowed student pharmacists to travel to several pharmacy and medical schools in Virginia and Tennessee to ensure that all students were receiving the same information. An interprofessional approach to opioid misuse is essential, and having informed students who are entering their respective professions is critical.
Youth and senior presentations
True to the Generation Rx mission statement, our chapter seeks to educate individuals of all ages concerning the dangers of medication misuse. During the year, we were able to host training events specifically directed toward school-aged children and older adults. Committee members presented and educated at the local Boys & Girls Club of America, churches, malls, juvenile detention centers, and hosted a Girl and Boy Scouts’ Day at the school to ultimately reach a total of 494 area children and teens. Each of these events allowed student pharmacists to interact with youth from different backgrounds and to educate them about the importance of medication safety.
The youth presentation at a local juvenile detention center was a recurring event throughout the year. Often, the young men and women at the center have first- or second-hand exposure to medication misuse, which allows us to discuss a variety of potential support system resources.
Many of the committee’s events geared toward young children incorporated the medication safety presentation as well as a hands-on learning game, where the children were tasked with identifying the items they thought were medication and the items they thought were candy. Hands-on learning is a great way to keep kids engaged and is another way for them to learn about medication safety.
Improper medication practices may often persist in older adults. Student pharmacists met with 47 senior citizens in a variety of locations to discuss proper medication use and drug disposal methods. We addressed the fact that substance use disorder can occur in this population, and talked with everyone who attended to negate the stigma
surrounding this disease.
Every individual we reach starts a conversation and relays that knowledge to those around them. We continue to create change agents across our communities with each activity and outreach effort regarding prescription drug misuse. This type of impact is something we take pride in every day.