Pasco ASAP Brings Awareness & Changes for a Better Future
The Alliance for Substance Abuse Prevention (ASAP) of Pasco County was founded in 2006 as a prevention coalition building a network involving the local community in substance abuse prevention and awareness efforts. With a mission to, “develop, motivate and encourage strategic relationships that reduce county risk factors and decrease substance abuse rates among youth and adults,” ASAP gauges the extent of local alcohol and drug abuse and associated problems. By identifying the most important local substance abuse problems, ASAP is able to target strategies that promote healthy norms. ASAP monitors trends over time in order to evaluate the effectiveness of prevention programs and initiate policies for change. ASAP’s positive outreach has been measured meticulously and has shown a significant impact on reducing alcohol-related crashes, prescription pill overdoses deaths in Pasco County.
ASAP Committees such as Alcohol Initiatives, Rx Abuse Prevention, Substance Exposed Newborns, Community Resources, Assessment and Evaluation Tools have made substantial progress in educating the community about substance abuse, prevention methods, and treatment options. Individual committees allow for complete focus on specific issues to strategic change in the environment. The committees are able to prioritize objectives, intercept the problem and collaborate together to put preventative measures in place.
For one example, ASAP joined forces with the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office and a local grassroots group, Save Pasco, to present and ordinance to the county commissioners banning synthetic drugs from being sold in convenience stores. With the support of the community and ASAP’S outreach efforts, the ordinance was passed in a remarkable time of only ten months. This victory within the community is one of many accomplishments ASAP has achieved and there are many more initiatives in progress!
ASAP’s dedication and involvement in the battle against substance abuse is making an impact throughout the area. Chrissie says, “We work together as a community to discuss what problems exist and from there we work to fill in the gaps and find solutions.” At present, ASAP has over 40 sectors of the community represented, but the coalition is always looking to expand membership and welcomes participation of the community citizens.
Community Action Plans
Coalition Coordinator Chrissie Parris, Project Manager Liana Dean, and Project Coordinator Shelah Neece explained the inner workings of ASAP and the goals they strive to meet. ASAP developed three strategic action plans focused on major priorities that need to be tackled in 2013.
The current top priorities are to: (1) Reduce the amount of alcohol-related motor vehicle accidents and injuries; (2) Reduce the number of prescription-related overdoses and reduce the number of newborns going through withdrawal from drugs; and (3) Expand ASAP outreach to increase capacity to reach specific sectors of the community.
In 2007, underage drinking cost Pasco County $64 million which includes the costs associated with medical care, morbidity and mortality, crime, motor vehicle crashes, and fire destruction. To build community change, ASAP works with the Pasco Sheriff’s Office and Alcohol Beverage Tobacco (ABT) establishing relationships with local businesses to decrease access to alcohol by those underage. Alcohol sales compliance checks are used regularly as a tool to keep the community a safe and healthy place for our youth, ensuring that businesses are in compliance with the laws and ordinances regulating the sale of alcohol. ASAP champions those businesses helping to keep our youth safe by sending certificates of appreciation and running an article in their monthly enewsletter. In addition, ASAP uses media campaigns to target open house parties and underage drinking, including TV spots, billboards, cinemas and presentations to parents at several schools to help adults start the conversation on alcohol and other drugs with youth in their lives. ASAP is highly active during Red Ribbon Week activities at Pasco County schools and participates in MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) advisory council meetings.
Primarily targeting alcohol abuse among young people in Pasco, STAND (Safe Teens Against Drugs) is a youth-led initiative for teens that want to be a positive influence in their community. Teens plan events and participate in activities to increase outreach to youth and adults. Young adult perspective provides new insight to the pressures teens face, how to challenge social norms, and ways to be a leader among peers.
In order to combat the prescription pill epidemic, ASAP has been actively involved in education and putting programs in place that raise awareness as well as give people the opportunity to voice concerns and questions. ASAP has installed drop sites for safe pharmaceutical disposal and participates with the Pasco Sheriff’s Office in many take-back events, in which the community can drop off unused and expired prescription medications. In 2011 and 2012, over 4,000 pounds (!) of safely disposed medications were collected through permanent drop off locations and take back events. Proper disposal of medications helps to reduce misuse and abuse. “Be Aware, Don’t Share” is a slogan ASAP implements, to remind people that sharing prescriptions can result in accidental overdoses and death.
“Pasco be SMARxT” is the branding for the triad of ASAP, Bay- Care Behavioral Health, and Pasco Sheriff’s Office, tackling a series of problems as a result of prescription drug abuse and substance exposed infants. ASAP is teaming up with pain management physicians to develop recommendations of best practices to reduce doctor shopping and prescription pill abuse. BayCare Behavioral Health has increased the number of beds for medically supervised withdrawal in their detoxification center. The Pasco Sheriff’s Office is expanding their intelligence-led policing efforts to target prescription pill crime. Pasco be SMARxT also works with the Healthy Start Coalition of Pasco in educating obstetrician offices about screening pregnant women for prescription drug abuse.
“Talk it Up, Lock it Up” is a statement that promotes adults to talk to youth, families and friends about the dangers of substance abuse and also teaches people the importance of safely locking up all medications and alcohol. ASAP encourages parents to improve skills to communicate with their kids, learn substance abuse signs and symptoms, and reduce opportunities for risk taking behaviors. Chrissie stated, “We focus on the exceptions to the problem and point out the positives that already exist. Parents and guardians can be really influential by setting a standard for teens and showing them that they can make a significant difference.”
ASAP Board of Directors
The ASAP Board of Directors is comprised of diverse members who are active in the local community. The collective experience of the board members allows ASAP to expand outreach efforts to include all sectors of Pasco.
ASAP Chairperson, Tracey Kaly, LCSW, Clinical Manager for BayCare Behavioral Health, oversees the clinical operations of mental health and co-occurring treatment services for adults. Sergeant Art Rowand is ASAP’s Vice Chairperson and currently the supervisor of the Pasco Sheriff’s Office’s Selective Traffic Enforcement Patrol (STEP),which concentrates on DUI enforcement and other traffic violations known to cause crashes. Program Director, Paula Green oversees the Substance Abuse Prevention and Intervention Programs at Youth and Family Alternatives, Inc and is the Secretary of ASAP. Debbie Antioco serves as ASAP’s Treasurer. Board members at large include Phil Cohen from the Public Defender’s Office, who provides insight into legal processes, and Christopher Wittmann, from Trinity Pain Center, who offers perspective on highly addictive medications and treatment options.
The Alliance for Substance Abuse Prevention is changing the atmosphere and environment within Pasco County in order to build a better present and future. Upcoming events offer the opportunity for the community to join in the efforts to make beautiful Pasco County the best place possible to live.
If you would like to get involved with Pasco ASAP, you can:
• Invite ASAP to speak.
• Volunteer at an upcoming event.
• Follow Pasco ASAP on Facebook and Twitter.
• Tell your friends about Pasco ASAP.
• Donate resources.
• Lend any experience you may have.
• Join a committee.
• Attend a monthly meeting.
Upcoming Events in 2013
Stand Meetings––The 2nd and 4th Wednesday of the month at the Centennial Park Library in New Port Richey at 4 PM; ASAP invites all parents, guardians, youth and anyone interested in being a part of the youth-led initiative to join.
Parent Summit, April 26––A teen panel will discuss challenges they face and guest speakers will educate parents and other adults who want to be a positive influence to teens.
National DEA Pharmaceutical Take Back Day, April 27, 10 AM–2 PM––Three take back sites will accept unused or expired pharmaceuticals with no questions asked, at Wiregrass Mall, Gulfview Square Mall and Crews Lake Park.
Cyclone Rally Against Underage Drinking and Medication Abuse, May 2––Panel discussion with guest speakers Superintendent Kurt Browning, Sheriff Chris Nocco, Judge Pat Siracusa, a Paramedic, and SADD Club President Melanie Triplett. Followed by a MADD Candlelight vigil to remember those lost to driving under the influence and substance abuse, at Centennial Middle School in Dade City.
4th Annual Prescription Drug Conference, May 23––ASAP is hosting a conference on prescription pills at the Palace Grand in Spring Hill. Registration is free for members of the community who want to learn more about interagency collaboration to reduce substance abuse in Pasco.
Coalition Meetings––ASAP meets the fourth Tuesday of every month at the Land O’ Lakes Community Center at 5401 Land O’ Lakes Boulevard (U.S. 41) from 10AM to 12PM.
The Alliance for Substance Abuse Prevention of Pasco County has a plethora of FREE resources available to the community on their website, Facebook and Twitter. If you need additional information, you can contact by email: Chrissie Parris, Coalition Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org; Liana Dean, M.S.W., Prescription Drug Project Manager at email@example.com; or Shelah Neece, Prescription Drug Project Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit the coalition online at www.pascoasap.com.