Program to help fight OxyContin problems considered

Posted: Tuesday, July 06, 2004

After listening to a 2 1/2-hour long drug company presentation on how to rid communities of drug-abuse problems, members of the Kenai Peninsula Prescription Drug Task Force and civic leaders edged a little closer to action in the war against OxyContin abuse.

A representative for the Channing Bete Co., which administers the prescription drug abuse prevention program for Purdue Pharma, manufacturers of OxyContin, told about three dozen community leaders Thursday at the Kenai River Center that providing school children with a set of healthy beliefs and clear standards of behavior are key to combating the drug problem.

Describing the Communities That Care program, which he said has been successfully implemented in 400 communities in the United States, Pat Aaby of Channing Bete, told the task force that problem behavior among adolescents is directly related to risk factors such as drug availability including alcohol, family conflict, academic failure, anti-social behavior and friends who engage in problem behavior.

The CTC project takes root in the community by formally training community leaders to implement the program while simultaneously surveying youth to determine which of the risk factors are present, according to Aaby.

Not solely targeted at prescription drug abuse, the Communities That Care program promotes positive development of youth while preventing adolescent problem behaviors, including substance abuse, delinquency, teen pregnancy, school dropout and violence.

The Prescription Drug Task Force was formed more than two years ago in response to a report showing that 15 percent of the money being paid by Medicaid for Oxycodone prescriptions in Alaska was on the Kenai Peninsula, which has only 6 percent of the state's population.

While the prescription drug abuse problem on the peninsula is not limited to youth offenders, that group is the focus of the CTC prevention program.

Likened to a computer operating system that allows a person to get to needed application programs, CTC helps communities get to tested, effective programs, policies and practices they need after assessing the risk factors that are present and the protection that is desired, Aaby said.

"We want you to prioritize what your most compelling risk factors are and find programs that are effective at reducing the problem in your community," he said.

Channing Bete charges communities $14,000 to instruct trainers and help with needs assessment. A professional trainer from Channing Bete would come to the peninsula and conduct five individual training sessions for community leaders, Aaby said.

Purdue Pharma then provides a $25,000 grant for implementing the program.

When asked why communities needed to pay the $14,000, Clay Yeager, a public affairs director for Purdue Pharma, said the money represents the community's buy-in.

"We require a commitment from the community or we won't provide funding," Yeager said.

The Rev. Jon Walters, pastor of the United Methodist Church of the New Covenant in Kenai and a member of the drug task force, said some task force members believe accepting money from Purdue Pharma would constitute a conflict of interest, because it is the company making OxyContin.

Aaby said that Channing Bete's successful working relationship with the pharmaceutical company in many other communities drove its decision to continue working with the firm.

Soldotna Police Sgt. Todd McGillivray, also a task force member, said, "(The OxyContin problem) was a couple doctors writing prescriptions, not the pharmaceutical company producing a wonderful product."

Yeager also said Purdue Pharma is the only drug company sponsoring the CTC program.

"I believe in what this program does for the entire community," he said. "There are a lot more problems than the abuse of OxyContin."

Acknowledging the attendance at the meeting by Soldotna Mayor Dave Carey, Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Dale Bagley and a representative of Rep. Mike Chenault's office, panel facilitator Stan Steadman asked if the civic leaders approved of CTC.

"I see the idea of this project as being very healthy," Carey said.

Bagley said he would need more information before going forward with it.

Carey pointed out that although the 36 people attending the presentation represented physicians, law enforcement officers, substance abuse counselors, mental health workers and other concerned citizens, a large segment of the community was missing young people.

"Young people can be a great help," Carey said.

No youth were invited to the meeting.

After the formal presentation and a question-and-answer session, the task force met briefly and has decided to gather again at 8 a.m. July 13 at Central Peninsula General Hospital to determine whether to go forward with the program.

That meeting is open to the public.

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