"Project Lazarus is a non-profit organization that provides training and technical assistance to communities and clinicians addressing prescription medication issues. Using experience, data, and compassion, we empower communities and individuals to prevent drug overdoses and opioid poisonings, establish effective substance use/disease of addiction treatment and support, and meet the needs of those living with pain." (Project Lazarus Brochure)
Ashley, Alyssa, Gabriel, Imari, Alex, and I have been working with the Harnett County Health Department to continue to implement Project Lazarus into the Harnett community. The Health Department has already begun working with the Harnett County Sheriff Department on the project by installing a prescription medicine drop box in the sheriff’s office. Within two weeks of the drop box being installed a shocking 6,000+ pills have been taken off the street or out of a household in the county, according to a representative from the sheriff’s office.
Our team from Campbell University has been anxiously awaiting a meeting set up for Harnett community professionals (school employees, health department officials, home care nurses pharmacists, etc) to give them insight on how Project Lazarus works and how it can work in Harnett County! With the meeting being held this Tuesday, we all got a real taste of the problem and hopefully some solutions!
We learned that Harnett County is considered to be in an epidemic category of prescription drug abuse. Upon speaking with a representative from the sheriff’s department, we discovered the problem is at a higher rate than I imagined in as young as middle school students. Young children are selling or taking medications found in their homes. Another concern from professionals in the county was the sharing of medication. If it worked for Mom’s pain, it can work for Son’s pain as well. Representatives from the Department of Aging showed concern that elderly people may accidentally overdose because they thought they forgot to take a dose so they double up, or they hold onto old prescriptions in case they need them later but they are later used incorrectly or by someone else in the household.
The project is being brought into Harnett County with a grant that can be used in various ways to increase knowledge, empower people to seek help or find answers, to better monitor abuse or misuse of prescription drugs, to better enforce laws on medications and to increase treatment and support for those with abuse problems. The meeting we were invited to attend brought professionals together to discuss how the funding could be used by various facets of the community (schools, faith communities, pharmacies, etc).
The reasoning behind the epidemic is a question that may never be answered. When we discussed the issues, we speculate that access to health care in this rural community could play a large role in the hanging on of previous medications. Sometimes, people find it difficult to get the healthcare they need due to work hours, transportation, insurance and so on. Also, if a community member has a difficult time getting to a physician or pharmacy a larger prescription may be filled to make the travel less for the patient. Whatever the reason, there needs to be a solution.
The solution will not be easy and there is no single answer. This wicked problem is important and difficult to solve. One thing that was discussed by every group across the board was education. Increasing the knowledge of the dangers and prevention was crucial. We discussed the use and carrying by health care workers and some families of Naloxone. This requires money and education of its existence and how it can help.
The role of Campbell’s Team Lazarus has been more defined as this project has gone on. We began the early stages by learning of the need and importance of Project Lazarus. At the meeting we became facilitators to enhance the conversation toward solutions. Our opinions and, although limited for now, knowledge was seen as an important part of the meeting. Since Tuesday we have been asked to help write the grant proposal with the Harnett County Health Department. We feel more committed to this cause than ever and more proud to be a part of change with every day that passes. I am very proud of myself and my teammates on the level of professionalism and respect shown and the work ethic we are putting into this project. I cannot wait to meet with our preceptors again to get one step closer to possibly making a change in the community.