Prescription Drug Take Back/Family Fun Day Oct. 22

photo of person at desk

Margaret McKinney/Highlands University
Desiree Martínez, the HU-CARES prevention coordinator for Highlands University, organizes some of the materials for the Oct. 22 Take Back/Family Fun Day for unused prescription drugs she is coordinating for the San Miguel County Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition. The prescription drug safety lock bags she is stacking will be given away at the event.

Las Vegas, N.M – Highlands University and the San Miguel County Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition are asking the community to come together Oct. 22 to safely dispose of unused and unwanted prescription drugs.

The Take Back/Family Fun Day is from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. at Highlands University’s Melody Park.

Desiree Martínez, HU-CARES prevention coordinator at Highlands, is coordinating the event on behalf of the San Miguel County Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition.

“This event is to raise awareness about prescription drug abuse in San Miguel County and help make these drugs less available,” Martínez said. “New Mexico Department of Health and other data sources rank San Miguel County as one of the highest in the state for teenagers using prescription drugs to get high.”

Martínez said that decreasing prescription drug use for both youth and adults in San Miguel County is one of the top goals of the four-year New Mexico Office of Substance Abuse Prevention grant Highlands was awarded in 2014.

“A major concern is that prescription painkillers, including opioids like oxycodone and Percocet, are highly addictive. Nationwide, many users who are addicted to painkillers switch to ‘harder’ drugs like heroin to get high,” Martínez said.

According to the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, overdose deaths related to prescription drug use are seeing a sharp increase nationwide, with a 2.8-fold total increase between 2001 and 2014.

Using the federal Drug Enforcement Agency model for these kind of events, the Highlands University campus police will use locked drop boxes for the painkillers and other prescription drugs, turning the boxes over to the DEA after the event for disposal.

“At the take back event, we’re making it easy and safe to dispose of unused prescription drugs. We’re making this a family event because prescription drug abuse doesn’t just affect one person, but the whole family. Also, when it’s family oriented, more people participate because it’s less intimidating and there isn’t stigma,” said Martínez, who earned her Master of Social Work at Highlands.

The Take Back/Family Fun event includes free hotdogs, popcorn and snow cones. There will be more than 20 information tables for people to learn about local health resources.

The family fun element includes the San Miguel County DWI Program providing go-kart rides and letting people try night-vision goggles. The Elks Lodge #408 will sponsor a number of games like ring tosses and balloon darts. There will also be Frisbees, footballs and soccer balls to use.

“We hope the games will encourage families to interact. There will also be prizes and free giveaways for participation in the information tables,” Martínez said.

More than 25 organizations strong, the San Miguel County Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition was established in 2014 after Highlands received the Office of Substance Abuse Prevention grant.

“This coalition has brought together a diverse group of passionate community members who are collaborating to address substance abuse issues in San Miguel County,” said Kimberly Blea, dean of students at Highlands and also the OSAP grant project director. “The coalition includes a cross section of members ranging from health providers to law enforcement and prevention programs.”

Blea said the coalition and its work supports Highlands University’s goal of being an engaged community partner.

“This substance abuse prevention project also provides valuable real-world professional experience for our social work and psychology students who work with implementation and evaluation,” Blea said.

Psychology professor Ian Williamson is the project evaluator for the grant. Martínez is the program coordinator.

For more information about the Oct. 22 Take Back/Fun Event, contact Martínez at 505-454-3518 or desireemartinez@nmhu.edu

If there is inclement weather, the event will be in the Highlands University Student Union Building Ballroom at 800 National Ave.