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Program Empowers Students to Fight Rx Drug Abuse

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Open pill bottle on counter; UnityPoint Health joins EVERFI's Prescription Drug Safety Network
Sabra Rosener, vice president of government and external affairs at UnityPoint Health, is all too familiar with the national public health emergency of prescription drug abuse. Through her work at the state and federal level, Rosener knows the facts surrounding opioid overdose. It’s the leading cause of death in the United States, and the number of individuals addicted continues to grow – including adolescents.

“One-third of teens believe there is ‘nothing wrong’ with occasionally using prescription medicines that aren’t prescribed to them, and one in five high school seniors report having misused prescription drugs,” Rosener says. “Reaching students early is critical to ending this epidemic.”

It’s the driving reason why Rosener helped champion the work to establish UnityPoint Health as the first health system in the nation to join the Prescription Drug Safety Network from EVERFI, bringing a digital drug safety education program to high schools in Iowa communities.

“Every day in our hospitals, clinics and addiction treatment programs, we see how prescription drug abuse devastates lives. Drug addiction does not discriminate. It impacts people of any age, race or gender, and it happens to people who live in either urban areas or rural communities. By educating young people about the risks of inappropriate use of prescription medications, we have an opportunity to influence healthy behaviors and prevent serious health consequences,” Rosener says.

The prescription drug safety program’s coursework features interactive digital lessons on topics, such as reading a prescription drug label, understanding the science of addiction, safe use, storage and disposal of medications, refusal skills, bystander intervention strategies and identifying community resources to support peers or family members who may be in need. Partnering high schools receive the program at no cost.

“Last fall, we launched the program with Des Moines Public Schools. Currently, more than 35 schools across Iowa are using the program and more than 1,300 students have participated. Over the next two years, we plan to expand to many more schools throughout Iowa,” Rosener says.

Prescription drug abuse is often a personal matter. Rosener’s hope is students are encouraged to take what they learn and put it into action.

“The knowledge teens receive from this course could save their lives, or the life of someone they love. UnityPoint Health is committed to helping resolve prescription drug abuse, whether through educating our physicians and clinical team members on safe prescribing practices, improving access to addiction treatment or working with lawmakers on legislation that supports prescription monitoring. These efforts and others are helping to make a difference.”