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Regional Prevention Coordinators Address Alcohol and Drug Problems in Tulsa County

TULSA, OK – [May 20, 2013] – The Tulsa Health Department’s Regional Prevention Coordinator program (RPC) recently observed National Prevention Week by encouraging everyone to talk to their children about the dangers of drugs and alcohol and to check medicine cabinets for drugs which could potentially be abused and properly dispose of them. National Prevention Week echoes the U.S. Surgeon General’s National Strategy which emphasizes that prevention should be woven into all aspects of our lives, including where and how we live, learn, work, and play.

The three prevention priorities of RPC are: underage drinking, adult binge/heavy drinking, and the non-medical use of prescription drugs. 

Underage Drinking
As a part of underage drinking prevention, RPC works with local law enforcement to conduct compliance checks of alcohol retailers in Tulsa County to determine if the establishment will sell to a minor. The average age of first use of alcohol in Oklahoma is thirteen years old. The 2012 Oklahoma Prevention Needs Assessment, conducted biennially by ODMHSAS, indicated that 43.3% of high school seniors participating in the survey in Tulsa County had engaged in drinking alcohol within the last 30 days. Further, 26.4% of high school senior participants engaged in binge drinking.

Adult Binge/Heavy Drinking
RPC offers Responsible Beverage Sales and Service training to teach how to sell and serve alcohol in a responsible manner and how to avoid over serving alcohol to customers. Adult binge/heavy drinking is significantly higher in Tulsa County than in Oklahoma or nationally. A total of 19.4% Tulsa residents are heavy drinkers, while only 5.5% nationally and 6.6% in Oklahoma are heavy drinkers. Many of these heavy drinkers use alcohol in their homes, other person’s homes, or at parties. However, if an individual visits a bar, club, or restaurant, the amount of alcohol consumed by an individual may be limited by management. 

Non-Medical Use of Prescription Drugs
Prescription drug abuse is on the rise nation-wide and Oklahoma is no exception. In 2010, Oklahoma had the 4th highest unintentional poisoning death rate in the nation, the majority of which involved prescription drugs. The number of fatalities from drug overdoses in Oklahoma has more than doubled in the past ten years. People, especially youth, often perceive prescription drugs as less harmful than other drugs because they are legal. However, taking prescriptions without medical supervision can be deadly. Youth most often obtain the prescription drugs from a home medicine cabinet or from family members or friends. Thus, persons should always lock up their prescription drugs to keep them away from others, and unused or outdated drugs should be disposed in a proper manner. They should not just be thrown in the trash or flushed in the toilet. RPC recently partnered with Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics to host a Prescription Drug Take-Back event to provide a safe, convenient, and responsible means of disposal, while also educating the general public about the potential for abuse of these medications. There are prescription drug drop off boxes at all division police stations in the city of Tulsa and at the sheriff’s office. 

Regional Prevention Coordinators is a grant funded program established to reduce the rates for underage drinking, adult binge drinking, and the non-medical use of painkillers within Tulsa County.  The work of RPC is to focus on population-level change in Tulsa County by assisting communities in determining the substance abuse problems affecting their constituents and the most effective strategies to address these problems. RPC works with local coalitions and stakeholders to gather data, track trends, and provide training and technical assistance within the community.  Additionally, RPC provides support for town hall meetings and assists with local alcohol and tobacco compliance operations. RPC is funded by the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.

Click here for more information regarding the Regional Prevention Coordinator program at the Tulsa Health Department.

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