Task Force Tackles Prescription Drug Abuse

By:    Candace Anderson, Contra Costa County Supervisor                              

We have a prescription drug abuse problem in our community and there are people stepping up to do something about it. The National Coalition Against Prescription Drug Abuse (NCAPDA) has been working diligently for the past four years to educate youth and adults about prescription drug dangers through parent education sessions, school assemblies, classroom presentations, and community awareness events.

NCAPDA was founded by San Ramon resident April Rovero, who knows too well what a toll the prescription drug abuse epidemic is taking on families throughout the country.  She lost her 21-year son Joey to an accidental prescription drug overdose in 2009 while he was attending college at Arizona State University. She has taken this personal tragedy and turned it into a way to help others.

One of NCAPDA’s latest prevention endeavors is the establishment of the San Ramon Valley Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Task Force.  Close to 25 San Ramon Valley community members attended the first two meetings and they have already identified specific projects that they plan to implement over the coming months including educating the community about how to lock up and properly dispose of their medications and about the availability of naloxone rescue kits for opioid (painkiller) overdoses.  Additional projects will evolve around educating every community sector in the San Ramon Valley about prescription drug dangers and helping medical providers understand how they can make a difference through their daily medical practices and prescribing protocols.

Over 20 people in the San Ramon Valley have died because of prescription drug related overdoses over the past five years, including Joey.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the drug overdose death rate in the United States has more than tripled since 1990. Most of that comes from prescription painkillers. In 2008, 14,800 Americans died from a prescription painkiller overdose. Data now show that prescription drugs are a major gateway to heroin addiction: About 80 percent of heroin users reportedly start off abusing painkillers. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Prescription opioid pain medications such as OxyContin and Vicodin can have effects similar to heroin when taken in doses or in ways other than prescribed, and they are currently among the most commonly abused drugs in the United States.”

While there is already support from numerous youth and adult community members and leaders, the task force would like to have every sector represented so they can make the biggest impact possible.  All parents and youth in the Valley are encouraged to join in and be a part of the solution that will result in fewer lost lives in our community.

The San Ramon Valley Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Task Force usually meets on the 1st Thursday of the month from 6:00-7:30pm at the San Ramon Valley Unified School District’s Professional Development Center located at 3280 E. Crow Canyon Road, San Ramon.  The next meeting will be held there on June 5th.  Anyone interested in joining the Task Force is encouraged to contact April Rovero with NCAPDA at [email protected] or by calling 925-480-7723.

You can also help with the safe disposal of your unused and unwanted prescription drugs by dropping them in a pharmaceutical collection bin in your community.  Not only does it keep them out of the wrong hands, but it keeps drugs from entering our water supply through the sewer system. You should never flush medication down toilets.   Take your drugs to the green drop box at any one of the locations in District 2 listed below.

  • Town of Danville, Police Department, 510 La Gonda Drive, Danville
  • City of Lafayette, Police Department, 3675 Mt. Diablo Blvd., #130, Lafayette (no liquids)
  • Town of Moraga, Police Department, 329 Rheem Boulevard, Moraga
  • City of Orinda, Police Department, 22 Orinda Way, Orinda
  • City of San Ramon, Police Department, 2401 Crow Canyon Road, San Ramon
  • City of Walnut Creek, City Hall Lobby, 1666 North Main Street, Walnut Creek

Together, there are many things we can do to make our community a safer, better place to live. Please join me in both raising awareness about this issue and properly disposing of prescription drugs. Don’t hesitate to contact my office if I can provide you with additional information on this topic or on other County issues.  I can be reached at [email protected] or 925-957-8860.