Sullivan County Prescription Drug Abuse Task Force recently formed   

 (Liberty NY, 9:45 AM) - The Sullivan County Rural Health Network has announced the creation of a Prescription Drug Abuse Task Force to combat the growing problem of prescription drug abuse in Sullivan County.  Prescription drug abuse is the nation's fastest-growing drug problem according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which has classified it as an epidemic. The Rural Health Network believes that it is also epidemic in Sullivan County.

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) has shown that nearly one-third of people aged 12 and over that used drugs for the first time in 2009 began by using a prescription drug non-medically (http://www.oas.samhsa.gov/nhsda.htm.)  A recent survey of students in grades 9 through 12 in Sullivan County confirmed that Sullivan County youth also are using prescription drugs for non-medical purposes. (New York State Youth Development Survey: 2010-2011 school year). The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA) Survey also found that pain relievers used for non-medical reasons were obtained 70% of the time from a friend/relative and only 30% from other sources. (SAMHSA: 2007; www.theantidrug.com )

Sullivan County’s community hospital, Catskill Regional Medical Center, reports an increase in emergency room visits related to use/abuse of prescription drugs. In 2010 there were approximately 47 ER visits, and in 2011 the number grew to 77 ER visits. These visits are for a wide variety of prescription drugs.  A draft report in October 2011 by the New York State Department of Health’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program indicated that the rate of oxycodone (an opiate narcotic) prescriptions in our county was the highest rate in New York State.

 As reported in the 2011 and 2012 County Health Rankings (http://www.countyhealthrankings.org/new-york/sullivan), Sullivan County has very poor health outcomes and has the highest premature death rate in New York State. Prescription drug abuse contributes to this rate and by doing something about this problem; the Task Force hopes to improve our health outcomes.

The Task Force will be comprised of a diverse group including representation from public health, mental health, substance abuse treatment, education, youth, business, government, federal drug enforcement, law enforcement, district attorney, pharmacy, nursing, hospitals, media and health education. The Task Force is interested in adding physician representation and welcoming others who may be able to contribute expertise and a perspective not yet included to help to solve this problem.

The Task Force hopes to work on several fronts to bring about change: through crafting and implementing specialized educational interventions, best practices, screening tools and law and policy change.

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For more information about the Prescription Drug Abuse Task Force of Sullivan County, contact Sullivan County Public Health Services at 845-292-5910, or e-mail Carol.Ryan@co.sullivan.ny.us.

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