Below you’ll find the transcript of this informative interview with Kelley Ryan (she/her), Prevention Links’ Director of Community Prevention, where she discusses responsible medication storage & disposal, the dangers of letting medication sit in your cabinet, and how educational community programs are helping keep seniors safe and informed on EBC Radio 1170AM https://ebcmusic.com
Alka (host): Kelley Ryan is the Director of Community Prevention at Prevention Links, a New Jersey-based nonprofit focused on substance use prevention and recovery support. She went to West Virginia University where she received her Bachelor’s Degree and is currently pursuing her Master’s Degree in Public Health at Capella University. Kelley has been working at Prevention Links for over ten years and was instrumental in launching Union County’s Safe Dates Program for high school students as well as the Senior Responsible Medication Storage and Disposal Initiative for seniors. Kelley sits on five different committees to strengthen communities in Union County including the county’s: Alliance Steering Committee,Youth Services Commission, Professional Advisory Committee on Mental Health and Drug Abuse and the Interagency Coordinating Council.
Welcome Kelley Ryan on EBC Radio, how are you doing?
Kelley: I’m good, thank you so much for having me today! How are you?
Alka: Well it’s our honor. I’m very good. I just read about your services, what you provide, all you’ve achieved all these years. It’s amazing to know that and it’s wonderful work you’re doing for the community.
Can you give us an overview of what services your program provides?
Kelley: Of course! So, we know that substance misuse is a threat across the lifespan, and our Community Prevention efforts at Prevention Links are building healthier & safer futures for our community members. We use targeted outreach and prevention programs to educate residents, raise awareness about current drug trends and enhance protective factors which are things like parental involvement, physical health, access to vital resources and more. Prevention Links has over two decades of experience in applying the evidence-based strategic prevention framework, developed by Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. We’ve built coalitions of support to combat substance misuse at the county level, with a focus on offering culturally relevant services which deliver sustainable positive outcomes.
Substance use disorder can be stopped before it starts and here is how we do it.
Our Health and Wellness Coalition (HAWC) brings together concerned community members throughout Union County to figure out what the prevention-related needs are within the county, develop and implement strategies based on those needs, and evaluate the impact of those strategies.
Prevention Links offers school-based prevention programs for grades K-12. All of these programs are evidence-based and tailored to the population and grade level being served. Some of the topics of our trainings include alcohol, tobacco, and other drug education; media literacy; dating violence prevention; youth leadership; parenting education and skill training; vaping prevention; and more.
Alka: Wow! So what programs would you like to highlight today?
Kelley: So one of our priorities is prevention across the lifespan. Many times we hear that people think that prevention is only for youth, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Prevention is for everyone at all stages of life. And today, I would like to talk a little about our responsible medication storage and disposal program and our special focus on senior citizens.
Here in New Jersey we are in the midst of an opioid crisis. With 145 suspected overdose deaths and 161,401 opioid prescriptions dispensed in Union County alone in 2021. In order to decrease access to these medications we provide local funeral homes, pharmacies and veterinary offices with informational cards that have facts about substance misuse, helpful tips to easily dispose of medications and the prescription drop box locations in Union County. By doing this we hope to increase knowledge of substance misuse and proper storage and disposal of unused/unwanted medication. One of our goals is to spread the word about how people can responsibly store and dispose of medications that people may have in their homes.
Alka: What are some tips for people to dispose of their medications?
Kelley: Some helpful tips to dispose of medication are:
- Take inventory. Be aware of the amount of medication in your home by measuring your supply daily or weekly.
- Make sure that you secure your medication. Consider keeling all medication in one location. Preferably out of reach of children and in a locked container. Lock boxes and lock pouches are great options.
- Talk to your family and friends about the dangers of misusing prescription and over-the-counter medications.
- Dispose of any unused, unwanted or expired medication at designated safe disposal locations.
Prescription Drop boxes are a great resource in the community. In Union County there are 18 drop box locations at local police department. Another great resource are Deterra pouches. Deterra pouches make it safe to dispose of medication at home. You place the medication in the pouch which contains activated charcoal, add water and shake. This deactivates the medication and makes it safe to throw in the trash.
Alka: Why is it so important to properly dispose and store medications?
Kelley: Every day, more than 130 people in the United States die after overdosing on opioids. (NIH) We can help prevent overdoses through proper monitoring and disposal of medication. In addition, medication doesn’t get into the environment by being thrown away or flushed down the toilet.
Alka: What work do you do with senior and responsible medication storage and disposal?
Kelley: Our team uses targeted outreach and goes to community centers, senior centers, senior living facilities; really anywhere that seniors gather, and we talk with them about the importance of responsible medication storage and disposal. We provide the seniors with pill organizers, lock pouches and Deterra pouches to safely and properly store and dispose of their medication at home.
We also provide them with Brown Bags so that the seniors can collect their medications and bring them back to a second session when we partner with local police departments who bring mobile drop boxes. Additionally, we share the importance of never sharing your medication with anyone.
Alka: Can you share with us a quick success story (omitting any elements that would identify your participant)?
Kelley: One of our senior participants shared with us that they used to share their prescription medications with family members. They also stated that they held onto old or expired medication in case they might need it later. After participating in our Responsible Medication Storage & Disposal program, they went home, took a brown big with them, gathered all their old and expired medication and brought it to our next session to dispose of at the mobile drop box.
Alka: Any last things you would like to share?
Kelley: Disposing of medication is just so important – making sure that medication stays with the person is belongs to, not letting it get to the wrong hands, and just making sure it’s locked up and secured. Then making sure it’s properly disposed of when it’s no longer needed.
For families in Central New Jersey who want to learn more about Prevention Links and the great prevention work we do, we want to invite you to attend our 24th annual Red Ribbon Day and Drug Prevention Walk which will take place on Saturday, October 22nd at Nomahegan Park in Cranford. Our walk raises awareness about the dangers of addiction and the hope of recovery. Following the walk, we will have a fall family fun day and health fair with lots of fun activities for kids like a petting zoo, pumpkin painting carnival games, crafts, a DJ and more. The family fun day is free but there is a registration fee for the walk. We hope you’ll join us on October 22nd.
Alka: Where can they register for this?
Kelley: They can go to our website which is preventionlinks.org or can reach out to myself at email@example.com or my Prevention Supervisor, Jessica Stuart, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone to our main location in Roselle which is (732) 381-4100
Alka: Thank you so much Kelley for coming on with us at EBC Radio and talking with our listeners and giving them such valuable information about how to dispose the medication and take care of the medication so that it doesn’t go to the wrong hands, so the misuse of drugs doesn’t happen.
Kelley: Thank you so much and thank you for having me!