Utah County Substance Misuse and Abuse Reduction Team
(PROVO, December 21, 2010) -- During 2010, over 152,000 abuseable prescription pills were removed from medicine cabinets throughout Utah County thanks to a coalition of volunteers and other stake holders that make up the Substance Misuse and Abuse Reduction Team (SMART). Legislation was also passed with SMART's support, training given to help doctors and law enforcement, and partnerships were formed to help address drug and alcohol abuse in our community.
"Last year SMART held 17 different prescription drug take back events in Utah County," said Kye Nordfelt, SMART coordinator. "We also supported the passage of Federal legislation that would allow for the return of unused controlled substances at locations other than police stations. This makes collecting prescription pain pills easier, encourages people to get them out of their cabinets, and prevents them from being misused or disposed of improperly."
Doctors and dentists were also given training on how to better prescribe pain pills, as well as better teach their patients how to use them. "When used properly, pain pills can greatly aid in the recovery process," said Nordfelt. "In some cases, however, patients abuse or unknowingly misuse their prescriptions that can lead to addiction." Nordfelt explained that SMART has worked with local physicians and other health provider partners to create a physician training program to help doctor's not only know when to prescribe, but also to spot abuse. "There are legitimate needs, and then there are those who know how to work the system to get meds for abuse. Our training is designed to help doctors prevent pain pill abuse through better initial patient education and to help doctors identify patients that are abusing, as well as how to get these patients the help they need."
Utah Representative Brad Daw -- also a SMART member -- worked with coalition members to pass legislation encouraging doctors to use the Utah Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing's (DOPL) Controlled Substance Database. "We are grateful for the leadership of Representative Daw," said Nordfelt. "The new law requires pain pill providers to register to use the database," said Nordfelt. He explained the database can also be searched for patients that doctor's think might be doctor shopping -- or jumping from one doctor to another to get new prescriptions to feed their addiction. "There has been a 70 percent increase in searches of the database since the law was enacted and almost all doctors are now registered to use the database," he said. "This means more doctors will be prepared to identify patients with legitimate pain needs as opposed to those with an addiction."
"The new law also requires that doctors be notified if their patients are arrested for DUI or involved in a pain pill overdose," said Nordfelt.
SMART was also able to help police officers better process DUIs by improving the tools they use to process a DUI violation. The new tools increase patrol officers' DUI detection rates by reducing their time doing paperwork and increase time patrolling. "Preliminary reports from one police department show an increase in detection rates and a decrease in the number of DUI related crashes," said Nordfelt.
"We are just really excited by what SMART has been able to accomplish this past year," said Nordfelt. Those efforts were also recognized by the Utah County Board of Health, who awarded SMART with the 2010 Friends of Public Health Award.
SMART also continues to gain financial support for its efforts. The Utah County Division of Substance Abuse received a new Drug Free Communities grant, which SMART will help to manage through its activities. This new grant includes five years of funding (that could be extended to up to 10 years) to help support SMART's directives.
"Our Key Leader Board and volunteer group in general continue to expand as well," said Nordfelt. "We are so grateful for all our committed members that continue to give thousands of hours to this cause and help prevent substance abuse in our community."
Individuals interested in participating in SMART are encouraged to contact Nordfelt at 801-851-7181. You can also follow SMART on Facebook by searching SMART Utah.