The Carter County Substance Abuse Prevention Committee met Wednesday to discuss various preventative measures, with a focus on opioid abuse and prescription.

Wichita Mountains Prevention Network contractor Cynthia Romine led the committee, consisting of law enforcement, health care professionals, service providers and others, in a discussion on the Oklahoma Prevention Needs Assessment.

The OPNA is a survey administered to Oklahoma students in sixth, eighth, tenth and twelfth grades, Romine said. The survey is administered every two years and focuses on mental illness, suicidal tendencies, substance abuse and academic failure, among other things.

The goal is for schools to be able to take preventative measures to improve areas where they are lacking and for the OPNA data to demonstrate whether those measures are working, Romine said.

Most strikingly, data from the 2014, 2016 and 2018 surveys showed that close to 70 percent of students were showing signs of depression, Romine said.

As a part of the OPNA, schools are offered the chance to apply for grants to help them improve, Romine said. Three schools in the Carter County area have registered to administer the OPNA in the upcoming school year, she said.

The committee also discussed grants that have been in place for around four years, their progress and the community’s response to change.

The CCSAPC has used the Partnership for Success Grant to educate the community on the opioid crisis for the past few years, Romine said. And began implementing the State Opioid Response Grant a few months ago.

“The opioid overdose death numbers were high in Carter County,” said Lisa Jackson, Wichita Mountains Prevention Network coordinator, who also spoke at the meeting.

A more specific aspect of the crisis that the committee explored was the social availability of prescription drugs. Over prescription of opioids and individuals’ access to medication that is not their own is a primary contributing factor to the crisis, Jackson said.

“The variable we have to change is the availability in the community where we are locking up stuff, taking it safely as the doctor prescribes and actually disposing of medication that’s not needed,” Jackson said.

The committee is currently trying to implement policies where physicians are encouraged to use a prescription monitoring program, Jackson said. By doing this, physicians would be able to track whether an individual received an opiate from a dentist or another doctor, she said.

Another prevention measure the committee is taking is designing resource cards containing information on getting treatment for opioid addiction and receiving a Naloxone kit to treat overdose.

Romine said the committee is distributing these cards in places throughout the community.  

“I want them (resource cards) to get in the hands of people who actually need these things,” Romine said.

Jackson said the Carter County community was initially in a ‘denial resistance phase,’ where either individuals weren’t aware of the problem or they were ignoring it. But over the years the community has become more proactive, she said — signaling that the committee is doing well.

“As a community we are starting to realize there is a problem,” Jackson said. “There are some people taking action to fix that problem, but the community as a whole is not quite active yet. We’re actually increasing, which shows us that what we’re doing is working.”