Did You Know (The War On Drugs)?
Did you know during the one-year period ending February 2019, 69,029 people lost their lives to drug overdose? Since 1999 the total is a staggering 770,000 people. Overdose is the number one cause of death in our country for people under the age of 50 and 7 out of 10 overdoses are from opiates. In comparison in 2019, 39,740 people died from guns (this includes suicides), and 38,800 died in car accidents. This Is a national epidemic with lots of causes and many layers of problems to sift through. The Federal and State government have an important role to play, but the real frontline of the battle is our individual communities. Billions of dollars have been appropriated by the Federal Government to aid communities in this effort. Similarly, North Carolina has aggressively gone after the problem with the enactment of the STOP Ac, legislation requiring providers to record in a database all prescriptions written and other important recommendations and guidelines to aid in the fight.
So where are we locally? Ten years ago, the Mitchell Yancey Substance Abuse Task Force was created as a grassroots community lead organization to stem the tide of substance misuse here at home. An executive board representing the medical community, law enforcement, DSS, health departments, clinical counselors and other professional providers, gives leadership to the overall organization. N.C. Cooperative Extension of Yancey County is represented on this board with an appointee serving as the youth zone leader. General meetings are open to everyone and anyone can join in the efforts of the coalition by signing up, attending meetings, receiving email updates and getting involved. Over the last 10 years the MYSTF has served in many roles. Just some of these are:
- Prescription drug take-back days and now full-time drop boxes;
- Distribution of med lockboxes as part of an overall campaign called Lock Your Meds;
- Distribution of Narcan to save lives of those actively overdosing from opiates;
- school-based programs like Appalachian Youth to Youth;
- Community events and keynote speakers, including international acclaimed Tonier Cain who hosted training locally along with a recovery rally;
- As an advocate for legislative change and as a platform to educate and inform our community about substance misuse.
Many other great initiatives are taking place with the Task Force. If you would like to find out more or would like to get involved, follow this link to their website.
N.C. Cooperative Extension of Yancey County is an important community partner in this fight not only providing leadership but programs that give teeth to our efforts. Extension’s Empowering Youth and Families gives the whole family an opportunity to meet and work together to strengthen bonds and relationships between them. This evidence-based program was designed specifically with the drug epidemic in mind but is an important tool for all areas of family life and dynamics. Our Extension provides many programs for kids and adults to learn new things in health and nutrition and great ways to get physically active. Programs like these help build the protective factors that make substance misuse less likely. In another area, our Extension sponsors the Mountain Challenge Program which works with “At-Risk Youth” in a variety of settings and formats to encourage positive prosocial outcomes in their lives. They also tirelessly help with many important events that address this debilitating crisis. Just one example of this was as a proud sponsor of the Tonier Cain three-day event which drew providers and concerned citizens from counties throughout the region. For more information on what your Extension is doing, just give us a call or stop by and see us. We would be happy to visit with you and offer any information or assistance we can.