The Medical Association of the State of Alabama is leading a multi-industry coalition of medical, business, health insurance and law enforcement organizations in the launch of a new initiative called Smart & Safe, aimed at providing education on and encouraging the safe prescription, use, storage and disposal of medication.
SmartAndSafeAL.org is a website detailing the initiative.
At an announcement on Wednesday, those behind the program say Smart & Safe is meant to build upon the success of 2013 legislation aimed at reducing prescription drug abuse and diversion. The Medical Association says in the year following its passage, that legislative package resulted in Alabama having the largest decrease in the southeast and third-largest decrease in the nation regarding use of the most highly-addictive prescription drugs.
“There is no question we continue to face an epidemic,” Dr. Buddy Smith said, “and our mission with Smart and Safe is to stem the tide. The multi-industry group making up the Smart and Safe coalition speaks both to the size of this problem and also the extent to which this issue touches each of our lives. At the same time, it also demonstrates the commitment that we and all of our partners have to do our part within our respective professions and businesses to reduce the abuse of prescription drugs in Alabama.”
Raising awareness about proper medication use is essential to preventing accidental overdose and death. According to Acting State Health Officer Dr. Tom Miller, prescription drug abuse is a significant threat to Alabama’s public health. “The number of deaths due to drug overdose, including prescription drugs, has resulted in the deaths of 762 Alabama residents between 2010 and 2014,” Dr. Miller said. “In 2014 alone, there were 221 deaths due to drug overdoses”.
While drug abuse directly affects families and individuals, its indirect effects on Alabama communities and the businesses therein are substantial according to Denson Henry, vice president of Henry Brick Co., in Selma, and co-chair of the Business Council of Alabama’s Health Committee. “Abuse of legal and illegal drugs is expensive to business, industry and employees due to higher insurance claims, lost productivity, injuries both on and off the job…not to mention the human cost. Because of this, business and industry seek to make work places and employees drug-free. Not only is it good for the bottom line, it’s also good for affected employees, co-workers and their families. Reducing abuse can reduce these ills and increase the bottom line. Encouraging and supporting treatment and prevention can help the employee, co-workers, management and families,” Henry said.