Back in October, the Monroe County Prevention & Wellness Coalition launched their “Pet Meds Matter Too” campaign, which came about due to a CADCA article talking about a coalition working with their animal shelters, which led to the Monroe Coalition to start researching pet trends. After finding some troubling information, the coalition went into action to create and launch their campaign. Below are some questions posed to the coalition’s project assistant, Gabbie McConkey, to gain perspective on the issue and to find out what’s next.
The Monroe County Prevention & Wellness Coalition, a state-funded anti-drug coalition, non-profit 501 (c) 3, has been serving Monroe County and its’ citizens for the last 12 years. A sub-sector of the Monroe County Health Council, which has been in existence for 25 years, the PWC (originally the Monroe County Alcohol and Drug Task Force) is funded by the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. The goals and focuses of the PWC are to reduce substance abuse rates among youth in our county, reduce substance abuse problems in Monroe County, and to build community partnerships and local resources for the citizens of Monroe County.
Why did you get involved in coalition work?
I started as a volunteer about 5 or 6 years ago. Since I have two daughters growing up here, I care about our county and its youth.
Why did you choose to focus on pets?
Actually, I think they chose me, lol. I saw an article on a CADCA page of another Coalition partnering with their local animal shelter for an event and I thought “Ooh what a great idea!” So I started researching and made the discovery of a horrible trend in which people intentionally harm their pets in order to get pain pills. I was literally in tears and knew that I had to bring this to light. During my research, I found that this was a nationwide problem and that New Jersey was actually at the forefront trying to create a system that would allow pharmacies to cross-reference customers’ pain medicine against that prescribed to their pet.
The flip side of this is that there are owners actually give THEIR medication to their pets, which can end up leaving the owner out of medication when they need it. Plus, you never know what medications are safe for animals- prescription or OTC. Always ask your vet!
And let’s face it- many people would do more for their pets then they would for themselves, so bringing these problems to light and encouraging proper disposal of ALL medication is just a win-win all around.
Is this a prominent issue in Monroe County?
After talking with some of our local veterinarians, who were all aware of the trend, I am happy to say it is not a prominent issue but of course there have been cases of people “vet shopping” (just like “doctor shopping”) and a few cases of people wanting excessive amounts of needles.
What has the response been like? From the community? From health professionals?
We have just recently launched the campaign, and so far so good! Our first locations are the Monroe County Animal Hospital, which has two locations, where they now have the “Pet Meds Matter Too” campaign materials in each exam room and lobby, CLD info, business cards with drop box locations, post cards and a case of lock boxes to disperse at their discretion. They have been awesome to work with. We also have campaign materials at the Monroe County Animal Shelter, on our traveling “Revealed A Hidden World” youth substance abuse prevention program trailer, and I plan to go to all our other local veterinarians within the next month. Those who have been at events that it has been showcased at have all been very supportive. Ads will run in our local media and on our social media pages as well.
What are you focusing on next? Do you have a specific idea you’re targeting?
Hmmm…. There is always so much we want to do but we are in the process of working with community partners on a vape presentation to educate our community on the dangers of youth using nicotine. Our Revealed: A Hidden World Trailer goes on location with this presentation and (the trailer) is specifically aimed at parents, caregivers, teachers only.