The Story of HopeRx, Part 1: Fighting Addiction with a Dose of Early Intervention and Community Support

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HopeRx, a community collaborative that partners with AdventHealth to stop substance misuse in Henderson County, North Carolina, is led by a team that understands the power of story.

HopeRx gives individuals who’ve struggled with addiction – or have lost a loved one to drugs – a platform to speak, capturing the attention of hundreds of students, even as young as the third grade. Many times, the impact is seen in the letters they receive.

After listening to one of the HopeRx speakers, one student wrote, “Thank you so much for sharing what you have been through. My brother in high school got with the wrong friends and got into meth. It changed his life and he will never be the same. It makes me feel better knowing that I am not the only person with a family member going through this pain. Thanks for sharing your life with us. It means a lot.”

Drug overdoses in North Carolina surged in 2017 faster than every other state in the nation but one. In 2018, 14 unintentional overdose deaths were reported in the state. Still, those are only the ones that are actually reported. Overdose deaths are not always reported, and “overdose” is not always reported as a cause of death.

HopeRx’s goal is to be current with substances that are misused and diverted in the Henderson County community, and to implement early intervention strategies to reduce usage, abuse and overdose, ultimately reducing overdose deaths. These strategies include:

  • Raising public awareness of the problem of overdose from prescription drugs,
  • Educating the community to recognize and avoid the dangers of prescription drug misuse/abuse,
  • Providing diversion control opportunities to reduce the presence of unused medication,
  • Advocating for emergency department policies that encourage safe prescribing of controlled substances and provide meaningful referrals for chronic pain and addiction,
  • Finding effective treatment options, and more.

HopeRx was created as a response to a Community Health Needs Assessment citing prescription drug misuse (specifically opiates) as a top health priority. The coalition was initiated by the Henderson County Partnership for Health in 2013 as a community collaborative, working with local law enforcement, county government, EMTs and other nonprofits to raise awareness and educate the residents of Henderson County regarding the dangers of prescription drug misuse.

However, their efforts don’t stop at prescription drug misuse. In 2018, HopeRx became the recipient of the Drug Free Communities Grant, which is administered through the government, to fight substance misuse among youth ages 12-25. With the grant, they’ve been able to expand prevention efforts and reach to include underage drinking.

“Our area has become home to dozens of breweries and now serves as the east coast operations for multiple national distributors,” said Julie Huneycutt, HopeRx program director. “We’ve recognized the importance of educating our youth and parents about the developing brain and dangers of early onset usage.”

Since its start, HopeRx has been active in numerous drug take-back events, diversion presentations, prescriber education and parent awareness events. The program reaches more than 9,000 students as the prevention arm of the local school system and has as one of its initiatives “We Are Hope Week,” a pre-spring break week featuring awareness and spirit activities around the theme of staying substance-free.

HopeRx works collaboratively with AdventHealth Hendersonville on this and other projects. Jimm Bunch, president/CEO for AdventHealth Hendersonville, is the lead sponsor for the events in the schools.

“One of the greatest issues we face in our community is the addiction to opioids and other narcotics,” Bunch said. “If we aren’t part of the solution, then we are part of the problem. AdventHealth Hendersonville chooses to be part of the solution.”

Click here to read program director Julie Huneycutt’s story and watch her video interview.

Click here to read HopeRx advocate Courtney Lowery’s story and watch her video interview.

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