Empowerment through collaboration

Generation Rx Twlug–ASP 2014 National Winner

TSU student pharmacists provide prescription drug abuse information at a local school.

Part of building a successful Generation Rx program at your chapter is identifying the needs of your community. Once these needs have been established, fostering relationships with community liaisons is imperative to implementing your programming in the community.

Our continued success is based on three major philosophies: empower others to be the change, collaborate (and when you think you are done, collaborate some more), and be open to changing your programming to meet the needs of your community. 

At the East Tennessee State University (ETSU) Bill Gatton College of Pharmacy, a critical part of our education is interprofessional collaboration. Our first goal was to strengthen the interprofessional bonds with fellow providers in the schools of medicine, nursing, physical therapy, psychology, public health, and speech language pathology. We partnered with local health departments, school systems, state-level health departments, and local youth groups to expand our outreach into the Appalachian communities. 

New programming

The second goal was developing new programming to engage our school and community at a new level. Our committee decided to expand initiatives to include elementary and college-age students. These were populations we had been unable to reach with our programming and our committee members wanted to provide it to these groups.

We started by adapting the Generation Rx Elementary Toolkit to serve the growing need for elementary school education about medication safety. Using this interactive platform, we educated children about poison prevention and medication safety, which lays the foundation for safe and responsible medication use throughout their lives. 

Previously, we struggled to provide programming on the ETSU main campus. To overcome this hurdle we partnered with the Diversity-promoting Institute on Drug Abuse Research Program (DIDARP) and wrote a grant that allowed us to host a movie screening of Oxyana, a documentary film about prescription drug abuse in rural Appalachia. We also held our first ever DEA Prescription Drug Take-Back Day event on ETSU’s main campus. 

Naloxone training

In collaboration with the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services, we facilitated intranasal naloxone training in Southwest Virginia as part of the pilot program Project REVIVE, an initiative that trains people in the community to recognize and respond to situations of opioid overdose, as well as provides them with training to administer intranasal naloxone in an effort to reverse opioid overdoses. The goal of this pilot program was to decrease overdose deaths in the greater Richmond area and Southwest Virginia. 

The community in Southwest Virginia has been ravaged by prescription opioid abuse. We trained student pharmacists how to teach lay rescuers and other health care providers to administer intranasal naloxone to patients in this community. So far, we have certified approximately 150 community members to serve as lay rescuers and administer naloxone. Thanks to our legislative interactions with U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D–VA) and the Department of Behavioral Health, Project REVIVE is now a statewide law through the passing of HB 1833, HB 1458, and SB 1186. This legislation allows any lay rescuers, law enforcement, and health care providers, who have received training to administer intranasal naloxone in the case of suspected opioid or heroin overdose, to be protected under Good Samaritan laws.

Team effort

Prescription opioid abuse and misuse continues to be an epidemic in Tennessee. At ETSU, collaboration and innovation are driving forces behind all of our endeavors to improve the problem in the community. As we continue to develop from student pharmacists to pharmacists, the lessons learned from collaborating with other health care providers and community advocates are essential to our success. With the passion of our committee members, other health care providers, and the community, together we are facilitating change in our region and state. 

Brandie LeBlanc is a final-year, Garrett Messmer, is a third-year, and Jason Sparks is a second-year, PharmD candidate at the East Tennessee State University Bill Gatton College of Pharmacy.