Drug Safe Hudson - Creating an Intelligent Community

Jamie MessengerJamie Messenger

The Hudson Police Department, the Hudson Community Foundation, Hudson Community First, and Hudson High School students have co-created a broad and inclusive coalition and have taken efforts into their own hands to prevent drug abuse and additional deaths from opioid overdose in Hudson.

“Drug Safe Hudson Coalition thrives because of involvement from individuals who live, work, and go to school in the City of Hudson. The Hudson community cares about its residents and getting help for people in need who have been affected by drug and alcohol use. I am excited to collaborate with Hudson Community First, Hudson Community Foundation, Cover 2 Resources, Hudson City School District, Hudson Police Department, the faith community, and other supporting organizations who strive to encourage the Hudson community to Get Help ~ Get Engaged ~ Get Educated. Congratulations to the City of Hudson for this outstanding achievement and being recognized as a Top7 Intelligent Community!”

-Jamie Messenger, Hudson Drug and Alcohol Community Resource Specialist, Drug Safe Hudson

Community Organizations Tackle the Opioid Epidemic - Advocacy

Defining the Need

The City of Hudson lies within Summit County, an urban county in Northeast Ohio that has seen a steady increase in the number of drug overdose deaths related to the opioid heroin. In 2015, Summit County had 213 accidental drug overdoses resulting in death. In 2016, the number rose to 337. In June of 2017, the Summit County Medical Examiner’s Office needed to bring in refrigerated mobile morgues to handle the volume of deaths due to heroin overdose, which were determined to be 226 as of October 2018. In 2015 there were 986 overdoses in Summit County. In 2016, the number rose to 2,438 and fell back to 2,322 in 2017. As of October 2018, there were 1,193 overdoses in 2018.

The more suburban City of Hudson has seen a surge in the use of Heroin and opioids as well. Statistically between 2010 and 2012, there was one reported Heroin overdose each year. In 2014, there were seven Heroin-related calls in the City of Hudson, three overdoses and two overdoses resulting in death. In addition to those deaths, two additional Hudson residents died outside of the City from Heroin overdose. All four of those deaths were recent graduates of Hudson High School. These numbers have continued to increase according to Summit County Public Health. In 2016, there were 33 overdoses involving Hudson residents with two resulting in death. In 2017, there were 27 overdoses, 19 in which Narcan was used, with one resulting in death. As of October 2018, there were ten overdoses so far.

Two million student athletes are expected to suffer a sports injury this year. Many will be prescribed opioid painkillers. 75% of high school heroin users started with prescription opioids. The statistics are frightening. 28.4% of student athletes used medical opioids at least once over a three-year period. 11% have used an opioid for non-medical reasons. Nearly 25% of students who chronically use prescription opioids also use heroin. First time opioid users have a 64% higher risk of early death than patients who use alternative pain medicine.

The Community Takes Action

The Hudson Police Department, the Hudson Community Foundation, Hudson Community First, and Hudson High School students have co-created a broad and inclusive coalition and have taken efforts into their own hands to prevent drug abuse and additional deaths from opioid overdose in Hudson.

Drug Safe HudsonDrug Safe Hudson

Hudson Community Foundation and Hudson Community First in collaboration with Cover 2 Resources funded the position of a Drug and Alcohol Community Outreach Specialist to head up Drug Safe Hudson. The advocacy responsibilities of this position include the establishment of positive and responsible relationships with various community organizations and resources in an effort to meet the goal of better assisting those living and working in Hudson with drug and alcohol prevention, intervention, treatment, and recovery.

One important role of Drug Safe Hudson is educating parents about talking to healthcare providers about alternative pain management options for their children, the importance of monitoring dosage, and educating their children about the dangers of misuse and overuse to ensure an injury does not lead to an opioid addiction. With the creation of this position, the Hudson Community Foundation has shown dedication to creating a collaborative approach to planning, coordinating, and evaluating anti-drug efforts in Hudson.

The mission of Drug Safe Hudson is to provide a resource for residents to Get Help, Get Engaged and Get Educated. A resident can get help by contacting Drug Safe Hudson for information, assistance, and resources. Drug Safe Hudson engages the community to help reduce the stigma and erase the notion that it ‘can’t happen here’. Drug Safe Hudson provides educational outreach to parents, schools, and community organizations.

“We are fortunate in our community to have schools, charities, churches, social service organizations and City government that recognizes that we all play crucial roles on preventing substance abuse and in offering support and assistance to those struggling with addiction,” said Superintendent of Hudson City Schools Phil Herman. “With so many organizations and individuals working to address the challenges, it will be very helpful to have someone in a position that can help us pull in the same direction and complement one another’s work.”

The abuse and misuse of opioids typically begins with prescription pills found in the home. According to the Summit County Opiate Task Force, a 2013 survey indicated that one in six high schoolers had used a prescription opioid medication without a prescription, and almost one in twenty had tried heroin. Through partnership with the Northeast Ohio based SafeRX Regional Collaborative, Drug Safe Hudson has provided DETERRA drug deactivation pouches. Since May 2018, the pouches that allow for safe disposal of unused prescription drugs have prevented 1145 prescription drugs from being misused in Hudson.

Prescription Drug Take Back DayPrescription Drug Take Back Day 2018

In conjunction with the Hudson Police Department, Drug Safe Hudson participates in the Drug Enforcement Agency’s Drug Take Back Day twice a year. At the most recent event in October 2018, the Hudson Police Department collected 79 pounds of unused prescription drugs and distributed DETERRA drug deactivation pouches through a partnership with the Acme Fresh Market Pharmacy located in Hudson. The Hudson Police Department also maintains a Dispose of Unused Medications Properly (D.U.M.P.) drop off box where it gathers approximately 260 pounds of unused prescription drugs a year. The Ohio Department of Health indicates that 26.5% of high school students have abused prescription drugs, often thinking they are safe because they have legitimate uses. Efforts such as the distribution of DETERRA drug deactivation pouches, Drug Take Back Day, and the D.U.M.P. box keep prescription drugs out of the hands of teens.

Hudson High School students recognize the danger of drug addiction and have embraced a drug free culture. Hudson High School has the largest student membership in Drug Free Clubs of America. 750 Hudson High School students joined the Drug Free Clubs of America in 2018, which is nearly half of the student population! School administrators at Hudson High School have inferred that the large membership is due to strong student leadership that has gone beyond the national club expectations and meets weekly to plan incentives and outreach opportunities aimed at engaging their peers. These student leaders have become powerful advocates for a better future.

The Hudson Police Department attributes a growth from 425 students during the 2017-2018 school year to 750 students during the 2018-2019 school year to parents establishing a comfort with the group through the realization of the commitment to privacy, the non-punitive nature of the drug testing, and the availability of resources to provide assistance. The Drug Free Clubs of America relies on positive peer pressure and rewards to help students make good choices. The fundamentals of Drug Free Clubs of America are confidential drug testing, positive reinforcement, student leadership, parent support, and drug education.

Confidential drug testing gives students the ability to say “I CAN’T. I MIGHT BE TESTED.” This offers an easy way out of a tough situation. Drug testing information, not intended to be punitive, is not shared with the school. Instead, the medical team contacts parents directly to discuss results and options for returning to a healthy lifestyle. Positive reinforcement is provided to members of the Drug Free Clubs of America at Hudson High School through perks at school, like free pizza at football games and preferred parking spots, and incentives such as discounts at local businesses.

Peer to peer influence is attained through student leadership. Students work together to reduce the likelihood of adulthood addiction, better realization of goals, and a more promising future. Parents are encouraged to have an engaged home-front and are comforted in knowing their child is making healthy choices and has a powerful safety net to reinforce those choices. Drug education is presented in a way that reaffirms drug free choices. The Hudson Police Department is a Platinum sponsor of the Drug Free Clubs of America at Hudson High School.

Hudson High School has not seen a comparable rise in drug and alcohol statistics correlating with City, County, and State trends. In 2015, 23 juvenile incidents involving alcohol, drugs, or tobacco occurred. In 2016, the number climbed to 26. In 2017, the number dropped to 19, and there have been only 14 incidents up to mid-November 2018. The biggest impact the Drug Free Clubs of America has had is in the empowering of students who choose to remain drug free. The Hudson Police Department hosts popular local food trucks that serve hamburgers and ice cream at Hudson High School as an incentive to remain drug free.

Local foundations and organizations underwrite a portion of the cost of the five yearly random drug tests required for participation in the Drug Free Clubs of America at Hudson High School through Akron Children’s Hospital. The Summit County Prosecutor also supports the Club through donations from the Law Enforcement Trust Fund which is comprised of seizure money from drug dealers. The Drug Free Clubs of America at Hudson High School is seeking to get more Hudson businesses and merchants involved in providing incentives to show the community’s support of Hudson youth.

Hudson High School students also participate on the Youth Board for Hudson Community First. Twenty-one Hudson High School students comprise the Youth Board, in addition to an adult Volunteer Board and an Advisory Board. The Advisory Board consists of community leaders from organizations, local businesses, foundations, and schools supporting the belief that the health and wellness of the Hudson community is directly dependent on developing opportunities, skills, relationships and values that young people need to be healthy, caring, and responsible. Hudson Community First, with over 250 members, encourages external assets of support, empowerment, boundaries, and expectations, and constructive use of time. Programming fosters internal assets of commitment to learning, positive values, social competencies, and positive identity. Hudson Community First programming begins in Early Childhood and extends through High School.
The City of Hudson is working together in partnership with schools, business leaders, community leaders, and youth to understand the challenges of opiate addiction, to identify resources, and to ultimately become champions of a citizen co-created vision for prevention, intervention, treatment, and recovery efforts in the fight against opioid addiction.