CHET's Generation Rx Program Combats Drug Abuse
Thursday, July 6, 2017

Section: People & Places in the News, June/July 2017

(from WBIR-TV)

As the fight against opioid abuse rages on in Tennessee, a first-of-its-kind program in Campbell County is teaching students about the dangers of prescription drug abuse.

Generation RX is a six-week-long program coordinated by Community Health of East Tennessee. The initiative, which launched in January 2016 and focuses on students between grades 5-8, aims to curb drug abuse early on.

In May, students at Elk Valley Elementary held their final class with Generation RX coordinators.

Prevention coordinator Donnie Poston asked the students several questions to gauge what they had learned. "What should you do if you find a prescription pill in your home?" he asked.

“Step on it,” one student said. Another answered, “Call for an adult!”

Fifth grader Avari Owens said one of the most striking lessons she had learned involved how to properly store prescription medicine -- especially around small children.

“If you have younger siblings in your household, you want to keep that pill away from your younger siblings to keep them healthy and keep them safe," she said.

Poston is the program's prevention coordinator and the former director of schools for Campbell County. "It's mind-boggling to think maybe, just maybe, they're getting the message,” he said.

Poston said many of the students live in households affected by the drug crisis.

According to the Tennessee Department of Health, 21 people died from drug-related causes in Campbell County in 2015, the latest year state-wide data is available. That is the fifth highest county in East Tennessee.

Campbell County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Josh Vann said he was impressed by students’ knowledge of safe prescription drug use. He hoped the program would help lower the number of children who take their parents’ prescription medication by accident.

So far, more than 400 students have taken the course across 13 public schools in Campbell County. The program also extends to some afterschool programs.

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