by Sara Harstad
Student pharmacists at Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine School of Pharmacy are actively involved in educating the Erie community about safe medication use. Specifically, this has become the mission of a collaborative effort between APhA’s Generation Rx and Katy’s Kids programs.
Katy’s Kids was developed by the University of Iowa and focuses on poison prevention for preschool and elementary-aged children. It has spread across the country, and Pennsylvania Pharmacists Association (PPA) has encouraged the schools of pharmacy in Pennsylvania to implement this program locally. With the recent expansion of Generation Rx to include poison prevention in its drug abuse education, we decided to combine these two initiatives. Due to increases in opioid abuse and heroin overdoses throughout the state of Pennsylvania since 2011, we believe it is important to educate Erie’s youth about the dangers of prescription drug misuse and abuse from a young age. For this reason, our Generation Rx/Katy’s Kids programming works to relay information to Erie’s youth that they may not be receiving at home.
In the past year, our Katy’s Kids program has also partnered with Safe Kids Erie, a local public health organization, to educate school-aged children and adolescents about poison prevention, the dangers of taking medication without adult supervision, and the danger in assuming that an unknown liquid or solid is safe to consume. Our most recent addition to our Katy’s Kids presentations included the adoption of “Spike’s Poison Prevention Adventure” for grades K-2, where the theme song includes phrases such as “If you don’t know what it is, stay away… If you think it might be poison, stay away.” The main take-home message is, “Quills up, stay away!”
Our mainstay activities for grades 3-6 include games where students try to decipher between two similar products presented to them, and determine which one is the candy and which is the medicine. This activity helps enforce the fact that poison can look like candy and vice versa. A good example of look-a-likes includes the comparison of chocolate to laxatives or the comparison of apple juice to Pine-Sol. A new activity we have in mind for next year that may help enforce this concept is to have kids take The Jelly Bean Challenge. This challenge is a popular game among children, where the child chooses between two identical Jelly Beans to taste, one with an unpleasant taste, and one with a pleasant taste. We can then explain to the children how this can be related to the difficulty of determining what is a poison and what is not.
We are always looking for opportunities to reach out to new schools and educational programs where we can present our Katy’s Kids and Generation Rx information, in order to reach out to as many youth as possible. In this upcoming year, we are planning to expand Generation Rx by reaching out to inner city schools, after school programs, and local colleges, where prescription drugs abuse, such as Adderall, may be prevalent. Other ideas for presentations include teaming up with local undergraduate medical programs, such as physician assistant, physical therapy, and nursing programs to educate about the importance of medical care teams and the opportunities for collaboration between pharmacists and other medical professionals in identifying and addressing prescription drug abuse.
The newest population of individuals to whom we’re interested in reaching out includes those who are imprisoned. The most recent reports available for the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections from 2013, stated that 26.8 percent of offenses for those imprisoned were related to violations of narcotic drug laws. Following a presentation at a Women’s State Correctional Institute, we learned that a majority of those inmates were imprisoned for offenses that were secondary to their drug abuse problems, and, even more surprising, 75 percent of pregnant inmates were being maintained on methadone throughout their pregnancy. We recognize that many of these inmates are parents; we can impact not only their safety, but their children’s safety, as well.
Seeing some of the life-altering consequences that drug abuse has on individuals was an eye opening experience for our Generation Rx/Katy’s Kids members, and has only inspired and challenged our APhA-ASP chapter to continue to reach further into the Erie community to educate and reduce the prevalent prescription drug abuse.
We are proud of the development and outreach of our Generation Rx program thus far. Our initiatives have been recognized and applauded by local government officials who are also passionate about keeping the children in our community safe. We are confident that the changes we have made in the past year by including Spike’s message, combining Generation Rx with Katy’s Kids, and partnering with Safe Kids Erie will bring about positive effects that will benefit our community, and we cannot wait to see how these changes impact our outreach in the coming years! From Spike’s perspective, “Quills down, stay close!” by keeping an eye on our chapter!
Sara just completed her first year at LECOM School of Pharmacy’s accelerated program. She loved her involvement with GenRx/Katy’s Kids this past year, serving as the program’s co-chair. Sara came to LECOM from Minnesota and has hopes of returning to the Midwest for residency upon graduation in 2017.