In April of 2009, a meeting of crime prevention/community policing officers was held in the Town of Menasha and this subject was brought up. In addition to the burglaries that were occurring throughout the Fox Valley, many other communities were being impacted by the abuse of prescription medication.
- Green Bay Police Department reported that they were having issues with teens having ‘pharming’ parties. In fact, the GBPD crime prevention officer was working with the school district to put together a parent meeting on this disturbing trend.
- Two Rivers Police Department reported that they had a rash of thefts of medication during open houses.
- Ripon Police Department reports that there officers were encountering people on traffic stops that were found with unidentified pills in containers and bags.
- Appleton Police Department reported that they have had a few robberies of pharmacies where the suspects only took medication and not money.
- Nearly every agency at this meeting had a story or experience of an overdose as a result of prescription medication.
After this conversation, it was quite apparent that there was a problem in our communities. We began to see risk taking people experimenting with these medications here in Northeast Wisconsin. More and more people were starting to use prescription and over the counter medication as a way to achieve a quick high. People viewed these medications as safe, in a sense that they are prescribed and approved by the FDA. These medications are also easily accessible and people don’t even have to venture out of their home to access them.
Some people may view this as a “victimless” crime, in a sense that the only damage being done is to the abuser. Law enforcement agencies in Northeast Wisconsin can attest to the fact that this is not the case. In recent years, law enforcement has investigated many thefts and burglaries where pharmaceuticals were the primary target. These addicts and criminals have become increasingly brazen in their crimes and we have started to see home invasions where innocent residents have suffered serious injuries. We have also heard the stories from family members on how this abuse has affected their families.
The crime prevention officers of Northeast Wisconsin recognized this threat and saw the need to act on this quickly! These officers formed a coalition consisting of law enforcement, pharmacists, juvenile justice, drug free coalitions and victims of this abuse to develop a prevention campaign targeting pharmaceutical abuse and crimes. The goal was to create a comprehensive kit that would contain material to educate and raise awareness of this problem. This kit is intended for crime prevention practitioners and educators to assist them to deliver this message to students, parents, community members, older adults, and pharmacies and health care facilities.
The group was able to partner with national organizations such as The Partnership for a Drug Free America, The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), National Institute for Drug Abuse (NIDA),and Purdue Pharma who all provided material to be included in the kit. The Wisconsin Department of Justice also produced a radio and television public service announcement highlighting this danger.
Train the trainer kit
Our coalition identified four target audiences to receive the message:
- Older adults
The coalition wanted to make this kit as user friendly as possible; therefore all of the material was presented in an “electronic” format on a DVD and CD. Within each target audience, through a combination of our coalitions creativity and the assistance of those national organizations identified above, we were able to create “folders” of materials that included Power Point presentations and handouts specific to that target audience. Many of the school districts throughout Wisconsin use Apple products in the classroom and we were able to accommodate that by having the Power Point presentations and videos created for both PC and MAC operating systems.
We also were able to provide some in-depth information on this problem not only here in Northeastern Wisconsin, but in the United States as a whole, for the presenter to increase his or her knowledge. To assist prevention practitioners on delivering the message we included several public service announcements for television, radio and print media in addition to posters for schools and other locations. Also included were facilitator guides for holding community meetings and information on disposal programs and steps to create such a program. Lastly, a directory of Wisconsin substance abuse treatment providers along with a list of contact information for coalition members was provided.
What was truly impressive and refreshing to the coalition was the strong support and willingness to cooperate between law enforcement agencies, national and state organizations and private corporations. The kit was able to be produced through funding by the Lake Winnebago Area MEG Unit, Wisconsin Department of Justice, School Specialty and AmeriPrint Graphics. With the support of the Wisconsin Crime Prevention Practitioners Association, Good Drugs Gone Bad was distributed to crime prevention practitioners across Wisconsin.