Eighth-graders at Paris Consolidated School recently completed the national pilot of a new prescription medication awareness unit that focuses on the importance of proper disposal of unused prescriptions.
“When we were asked last spring to participate in a program about how dangerous the medications in medicine cabinets are, I knew we wanted to do it,” principal Roger Gahart said.
The unit, developed by DisposeRx, a North Carolina-based company, encourages participating schools to get parents involved and to partner with area businesses and service agencies.
“Our students’ safety is always our first concern and I knew we have the strong community that DisposeRx needed to pilot its program,” Gahart said.
The culmination event was attended by eighth-grade families, executives from DisposeRx, representatives from Walmart Pharmacy and the Kenosha County Substance Abuse Coalition, and Kenosha County Deputy Friendly Ray Rowe.
The course was taught by middle school science teacher Tiffany Erbentraut. Paris eighth-graders worked in small groups to research drug abuse, treatment and recovery and present their findings.
“I was impressed by how seriously the students took the work,” Erbentraut said. “The level of research they applied in their presentations showed me that students know there is a problem in our community and they want to understand it. I could see the learning that happened with this program.”
Ann Hamlin, director of science and training at DisposeRx, said family participation is crucial.
“Safe prescription medication disposal is at the heart of our team’s work,” Hamlin said. “It’s a short, three-part course that wraps up with a family and community share event. This lets students stand up in front of their parents and siblings and talk about the dangers in their medicine cabinets, and of drug addiction in general.”
Tested drug disposal product
Students had the opportunity to test the DisposeRx drug disposal product during the coursework.
“They absolutely loved the part where they got to use the product to destroy some Altoids,” Erbentraut added. “We talked about how the powder is a polymer that traps the ingredients in the medications and isolates them to destroy the drug. It’s such a great, real-world way to showcase chemistry.”
The school invited Rowe, who serves as the DARE officer for Kenosha County, to revisit the students he taught as fifth-graders as part of the unit.
“There is a gap in what we teach our kids,” Rowe told parents at the event. “We hit DARE hard in fifth grade, but then we don’t talk about drugs again until maybe a survey unit in high school health. And even in fifth grade, the DARE program doesn’t spend a lot of focus on prescriptions in the medicine cabinet.”
Rowe said this curriculum provides students “real, practical knowledge before they go off to high school.”
Recent crimes connected to drugs
Rowe used current county events to validate the importance of such curriculum.
“We have recently had a rash of bad crime in Kenosha County,” Rowe said. “That’s not who we are, and it doesn’t have a place here. But you know what the shootings all had in common? Drugs.
“We need to get drugs out of our community. We all have a responsibility to do something as simple as clean unused prescription medications out of our medicine cabinets and take them to a drop box or a takeback event or use a simple product like DisposeRx to safely destroy them in your home.”
Parental response to the program was positive.
“The presentations tonight showed that all of the kids in the class learned more about the dangers of prescription drug abuse and ways to safely get rid of them,” Leann Drissel said. “But, it also gives our family another good opportunity to have more conversations at home.”
To offer unit to other districts
Hamlin explained the feedback from the school will be used to make adjustments and begin offering the program to other schools in select communities across the country.
She added that at least one other school in Kenosha County has expressed interest in bringing the curriculum to its eighth-graders.