The opioid crisis in Maricopa County is a continuous and growing issue that leaders in Arizona are targeting.
The Governor’s Office of Youth, Faith and Family is home to the Parent’s Commission of Drug Education and Prevention, which helps enable and fund programs to enhance parental involvement, a key issue in targeting substance abuse and educating those on the signs and risks of substance abuse.
During a meeting on Sept. 13, Nicole Valenzuela, Program Administrator at the
Governor’s Office of Youth, Faith and Family, asked,
“What are the tools we need to really listen and learn and understand how we can impact our communities? By first knowing our communities and who they are. Some of the ways that we are doing that is by identifying organizations that are having significant challenges.”
The Casa Grande Alliance helps provide families and youth with essential resources and services. The CGA is one of many organizations the Parents Commission funds. Bob Shogren, Executive Director for CGA, spoke about their alliance during the meeting and how they are changing the community.
“For a good period, the Parent’s Commission genuinely sustained this tiny community-based non-profit,” Shogren said. “All of the new research now surrounding childhood trauma and adversity gives us a different way to think about the root cause of substance misuse, which leads to abuse.”
Shogren described how they are advancing as an organization and want to focus on mental health and physical needs instead of primarily educating kids on the effects of taking harmful substances.
“Instead of preaching a gospel of just ‘say no to drugs, kids,’ we are now more shifting our focus to be of greater support to children, youth and families, but I think ultimately the community,” he said.
As part of their initiative, CGA, in partnership with Prevent Child Abuse Arizona, holds a Triple P (Positive Parenting Program) allowing parents to build healthy and strong relationships with their children. Shogren argued that this foundation is essential in fighting the opioid crisis.
Community Medical Services, another organization supported by the commission, aims to help those suffering from substance abuse disorder.
“We believe in evidence-based practices and focus on what works,” said Michael Lawson, a Clinical Coordinator for CMS. “There are currently 2.4 million untreated opioid-dependent individuals in the U.S., and It only continues to rise.”
The CMS clinic – Mesa on Arbor, offers intensive outpatient treatment and personalized treatment plans per patient with on-site medical providers.
Early intervention, a precautionary measure, starts with supportive and present parents aware of their child’s behaviors. However, Lawson said, “The first step in prevention is education.” That is education on the harmful risks and subsequent consequences of substance usage. Though intervention for ongoing use can be more difficult, Lawson urges having a healthy family environment, offering detox and giving support is crucial.
CMS considers medication-assisted treatment, or MAT, as a last resort. However, this procedure is often used by patients with two failed detoxes. This method uses prescription drugs and behavioral therapy to help those suffering from substance abuse maintain recovery easier.
“Only 20% (of users) are receiving medication for opioid use treatment, which is why our mission is to help those suffering from substance use disorders. We consider these people our patients and aim to help them heal,” Lawson said.
The Arizona Parents Commission Grant funds 27 agencies, providing prevention services throughout Arizona communities.
“Education and engagement to learn about substance and substance use prevention is a great way to get involved,” Valenzuela said. “Our website has resources, information and links to organizations involved with prevention that have many ways to get involved and to also learn and participate in prevention programming.”
That website can be found at goyff.az.gov.