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Addressing concerns about opioids and looking toward the future

October 4, 2018

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the final installment of a five-week series covering opioid use and treatment.

BULLHEAD CITY — Prevention of opioid misuse and abuse doesn’t always receive the amount of attention it deserves, according to officials.

Danny Pirtle, senior lecturer of criminology and criminal justice at Arizona State University’s Lake Havasu City campus, said that when communities look at how to help people suffering from substance abuse challenges, prevention efforts deserve as much attention as, often, more costly intervention and treatment-recovery resources.

“It’s a focus that can keep people from needing more intensive help later on,” he said.

Prevention, intervention, treatment and recovery were the major topics discussed during an opioid symposium held last month at Mohave Community College, and one of the groups involved in the planning of the event is coming closer to offering a prevention program for the region’s youth.

The Mohave Area Partnership Promoting Educated Decisions, a local coalition formed to prevent substance use, misuse and abuse, wants to provide curriculum to help young people make good decisions. Alcohol, prescription drugs and illicit drugs are the main focus of the group.

Members sought the help of

Carolyn Stewart, who retired in 2015 from the Bullhead City Elementary School District where she served as principal of Desert Valley, Coyote Canyon and Bullhead City Junior High schools.

The idea is to help them “think about being healthy people,” Stewart said, including not misusing alcohol and drugs, such as opioids.

Helping them develop sound decision-making skills should benefit children as they make their way through life, she said.

While opioids are a concern today, the question of whether to try a different, potentially harmful, substance could come up in the future.

“We want them to ask good questions before they make decisions,” Stewart said. “This kind of approach should help them be able to do that.”

The program she recommends is Lions Quest, which highlights attributes such as “character development, social and emotional learning, civic values, violence and substance abuse prevention and service-learning,” according to the Lions Clubs International Foundation.

Stewart said the program was updated recently and that it’s not only research-based but will be taught by a instructor who comes into classrooms for this specific purpose.

“Teachers are already overloaded,” Stewart said. “And students tend to listen intently to a different voice.”

Excluding cost for the instructor, who would be employed by MAPPED, cost for materials would be $4 for each third-grader attending a school in the Tri-state, said Stewart, who is also responsible for seeking funding to pay for the program.

She estimated the program would serve about 600 children during the first year. The second year would focus on third- and fifth-graders because the third-graders who complete the program in the first year will have advanced to fourth grade at that point.

“We hope in a 10-year period we can change the face of this valley,” said Larry Tunforss, MAPPED member and spokesman. “I’m sure every parent that has an adult child dependent on some illegal substance wishes they had had this type of education at school.”

Tunforss referenced an article in Tuesday’s edition of the Daily News about the sentencing of a local woman for manslaughter and driving under the influence. Page Nichole Carlton, 24, killed a man in a head-on traffic accident on Highway 95 in September, 2017. Darryl James Tuttle, 45, of Fort Mohave was traveling south on his motorcycle when Carlton, traveling north, crossed the center lane and collided with him. It was determined that she had THC, morphine and codeine in her system.

“I want to get copies of that story and post them so young people can see it,” Tunforss said. “I’m sure the young lady in the newspaper wished she’d had that sort of education.”

Another symposium panelist, Nancy Mongeau, said focusing on prevention is a sound community investment. She is the Legacy Foundation’s vice president of program development for the Tri-state region and has a professional background that includes nursing and social work.

Legacy’s mission is to enhance quality of life and health through grant awards for efforts that strive to do the same thing. Promising opioid misuse prevention efforts might be eligible for grants from this source, she stated at the symposium. And she later concurred with Pirtle’s assertion that prevention is a worthy path for reducing opioid misuse.

“I believe we need to get to the next generation,” she said.

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