About a year ago, Walmart Pharmacy Manager Bruno Andrade took a packet of DisposeRx to a meeting of the Central Virginia Addiction and Recovery Resources Coalition. He wanted to make other coalition members aware of the program that Walmart had recently implemented to dispense DisposeRx—the at-home medication disposal solution—with each patient’s opioid prescription.
Coalition Board Member Shannon Miles is also manager of perinatal outreach and ambulatory services at Centra, a regional nonprofit healthcare system based in Lynchburg, Va., and she took note of the product. Shannon’s seen firsthand the devastating effect of opioid abuse on mothers and their newborn babies, often whom suffer from neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS).
“In just one quarter in early 2015, we watched our rates of NAS more than triple, and we knew we had to join efforts to combat the epidemic,” Miles said.
They started a Centra-funded program to provide medication and education assistance to patients suffering from opioid and poly substance abuse. The program was so successful that in March 2019 Shannon led efforts to secure a $1.5 million grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)—a branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The grant is expanding the initial program for an additional three years and is aimed to help wean 300 patients off of addictive opioids and prevent potentially fatal overdoses through medication-assisted treatment, counseling and education. The federal grant is the largest ever received in Centra’s 30-year history.
Securing grants, caring for patients and engaging in opioid advocacy work is just part of what fills Shannon’s life, as she also is enrolled in graduate school pursuing a degree in nursing leadership. “I am close to completing my master’s, and one of my final requirements is to lead an evidence-based project in a healthcare setting,” Miles said, “but I wanted to a project that would be interesting and impactful.”
She had an idea to track the rate of medication disposal of opioid prescriptions presented with a packet of DisposeRx at the time of discharge from the Mother-Baby Unit and the Surgery Centers at Centra. Studies show that leftover opioid and controlled substances can be dangerous for patients, as well as family members and friends. They can be diverted, causing overdoses, addictions, poisonings and death.
But before Shannon could build a case to start the evidence-based project, she needed to find a source for the DisposeRx packets. Being resourceful, she reached out to the prevention coordinator at Horizon Behavioral Health—a community service board—to request DisposeRx packets. Horizon had successfully received grant funding from the state, which enabled the organization to purchase packets through Walmart.com.
Horizon shared 2,500 packets with Shannon to launch her pilot project, and since then, Shannon has secured another 2,500 packets of DisposeRx from a foundation grant program offered through AmerisourceBergen—a pharmacy wholesaler and customer of DisposeRx.
Shannon and the discharge nurses began offering the DisposeRx packets and education information in late July 2019, and the pilot will run through October. As part of the master’s program project, Shannon is now calling each patient to track the rates of disposal.
“We are determined to make a difference in our community by implementing programs to help treat patients suffering from opioid and poly substance abuse and to help educate the broader community on ways that we can prevent the crisis from spreading,” Miles said. “We are grateful for all of the organizations that have supported our efforts, because we know we cannot do it alone. We have had success with our initial programs, and we look forward to reporting out on our disposal pilot as well.”
The program was recently highlighted on WSET-TV, ABC13.
“On behalf of all of us at DisposeRx, we are eager to get more directly involved to support Shannon, Centra and all that the Lynchburg community is doing to combat the opioid crisis,” said William Simpson, President of DisposeRx. “They truly are a model that we can only hope will spread throughout our country to help stem the devastating physical, emotional and economic effects of this epidemic.”