We can’t overlook underage opioid use
WHITE MOUNTAIN INDEPENDENT | By Vicky Solomon | Apr 23, 2019
Navajo County may be one of the more rural areas of Arizona — 42 percent of the county’s 9,953 square miles is Native American reservation land — but don’t think for a second that protects it from the state’s opioid crisis. In fact, Navajo County had 183 opioid overdoses between June 2017 and November 2018.
Limited public transportation, limited phone and internet service and lack of access to drug treatment centers only fuel the problem as do Navajo County’s high rates of poverty — 26.2 percent of adults and up to 40 percent of children live below the poverty level.
The 2018 Arizona Opioid Epidemic Act is a step in the right direction. It tackles the opioid crisis through a combination of physician education, dosage limits, required e-prescribing to reduce forged prescriptions, improved access to drug treatment and widespread availability of the overdose-reversal drug Naloxone. Unfortunately, there is still much to be done to protect our most vulnerable population: our youth.
Opioid use among Navajo County Youth
According to the 2018 Arizona Youth Survey, 12.5 percent of Navajo County 8th-, 10th-, and 12th-graders have misused prescription drugs. Nationally, a 2018 Monitoring the Future survey show that 32.5 percent of 12th-graders said that opioids were easily available.
The survey indicated that the average age of prescription drug initiation for Navajo County youth was just 13. And unsurprisingly, less than half of those young people are talking to their parents about substance use.
In an effort to prevent Navajo County children from becoming drug users, Nexus Coalition for Drug Prevention (NCDP) was formed in 2008. The coalition lives its mission — to strengthen a community alliance working toward a healthy, substance-free environment for youth — through prevention education and skill-building opportunities for children and adults.
Our three biggest programs:
Junior Leadership Academy: This summer program helps kids from all over the White Mountains learn about how to be an integral part of their community through service and fun activities that promote teamwork, and leadership.
Mpowrd: This teen support group helps high schoolers learn personal empowerment and accountability. Students struggling with destructive behaviors, aggression, negative thinking, and unhealthy relationships are given tools to help them change for the better.
2BMpowrd: This support group creates an opportunity for age-appropriate discussion of some of the most challenging topics facing adolescents today, and offers a chance to develop the confidence and communication skills to address issues that they face at each developmental level.
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