Host a Training Day for First Responders and the Community

First responders are firefighters, police officers, and emergency medical technicians (EMTs). All three of these professions require continuous training throughout their career. With the use of opioids and the number of opioid overdoses, increasing, first responders need to know the most up to date information. They also need to be aware of the risks when responding to opioid-related emergency calls such as needles, the pysical environment, or even distraught family members. A training day would allow first responders to learn about the nature of opioid use and abuse and how to protect themselves, and others, from possible risk.
How do I do that?1. Determine location, date, and time of training day.2. Line up appropriate personnel to provide training (i.e., ER doctor/nurse, drug rehab counselor, etc.)3. Prepare training guides, handouts, etc.4. Create event invitations for local first responders.5. These people like to eat! Be sure to have free snacks and beverages available throughout the training day.

Create a Safe Station at a Fire Department

A Safe Station is a fire department that is available 24 hours a day to help those who are seeking aid with substance misuse disorder and are not in need of immediate medical attention. This service aids hospitals by taking care of patients who are seeking assistance, but are not in immediate need of medical attention.
Once an individual enters the Safe Station for assistance, trained firefighters will provide a medical assessment to determine if there is anything else medically wrong with the patient that would require further medical attention. If the person is in need of medical attention, an ambulance will be provided to transport them to the nearest facility. If no concerning medical conditions are found, the patient will turn in any drug paraphernalia or needles to the fire department’s collection area. If weapons or illegal substances are involved, a police department will be notified and involved in their collection.
The patient will have the opportunity to speak with a substance misuse coach and find a treatment plan that is right for their path to recovery.
The 24-hour service allows individuals to seek help as soon as they are ready, rather than waiting until a facility opens and risking repeated substance misuse.
According to, the Safe Stations in Manchester, New Hampshire have “developed and implemented without any new funding” and “has connected 1,326 people to treatment between May 4, 2016 and March 4, 2017.”
Currently there are no Safe Stations in the state of Tennessee, but there are several successful stations in New Hampshire.
How can I do that?1. Reach out to a fire department with a Safe Station program for advice.2. Contact your local fire department about creating a Safe Station program.

Create Drug Education Materials

Education is key in helping to prevent the misuse of opioids. Educational kits are easily distributed throughout the community by partnering up with local community businesses and organizations. Some examples of items that can be included: pamphlets, informational brochures, magnets, bracelets, toys, pens/pencils etc. These items are anything that will draw attention to the educational information being provided. Alternatively, you can partner with a local pharmacy or other wellness-related business to display the kits at the checkout counter for customers.
How do I do that?1. Gather printed materials to include in each kit.2. Purchase giveaway items with drug education message (magnets, pens, bracelets, etc.)3. Package printed materials and giveaway items in small bag or box to be easily handed out to members of the public.4. Coordinate with local businesses to hand out kits to customers as they enter and leave the store.5. Alternatively, partner with a local pharmacy or other wellness-related business to display the kits at the checkout counter for customers to take while making purchase.

Advertise a Drug Takeback Day

Most people do not remember to dispose of their unused medications, which creates an opportunity for substance misuse. Often, patients are not told how to dispose of medication when they no longer need them, so many prescription medications end up being flushed down the toilet or thrown away in the trash. These disposal methods pollute the environment. Because of these two things, important to create awareness about the dangers of keeping unused prescriptions and how to properly dispose of them on a specific day in a convenient location nearby.
When creating a marketing plan for your event, consider the common marketing rule that a person needs to see an advertisement at least seven times before they will remember it. Use various forms of media for your ad, such as pamphlets, posters, billboards and social media posts. Try to place your ads in high traffic areas with strong visibility to reach as many people as possible. Target your advertising, when you can, by placing ads in places like doctor’s offices and pharmacies.
Many families and individuals want to prevent substance misuse and dispose of unused medication taking up space, making a Drug Takeback Day a valuable and potentially successful event. According to the Tennessean, the Nashville Drug Takeback day in April 2017 collected 212 pounds of pills and over 150 people brought in their old medications to Nashville pharmacies.

How can I do that?
There are several things you can do to get the word out about your Drug Takeback Day. Here are just a few options. You can do one, or you can do them all! It really is up to you and your community to decide which of these will encourage the most participation.
Option #1. Mention the benefits of participating in your advertisement.
Option #2. Present the successful data (number or participants or amount of drugs collected) of previous events.
Option #3. Include logos/statements from the organizations that will be collecting the unused prescriptions.
Option #4. Advertise any keynote speakers who will be at the event or any organizations that will have booths.
Option #5. Promote fun by including some family-friendly activities at your event.

Help Pregnant Women Struggling with Addiction

Pregnant women with substance use disorder run the risk of their babies being born drug-dependent.
Babies born with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) experience withdrawal symptoms after birth and usually require hospitalization, intensive care and medication(s) for several weeks to keep them comfortable and safe during the withdrawal process.

Let your loved one know that you are supportive by encouraging her to seek treatment. Offer to provide assistance in finding resources.
Check out the resources below to see what action steps to take next depending upon where your family member is in the process.

Host an Event during National Prevention Week

National Prevention Week is an event organized by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) scheduled to occur May 13-19. The goal of this event is to increase awareness regarding substance misuse and/or mental disorders.
National Prevention Week provides communities with the opportunity to host this event in their own cities and schools. SAMHSA provides promotional materials and toolkits that offer event ideas and tips to help community event organizers.
How can I do that?
If you are an educator or community leader…
  1. Go to SAMHSA’s National Prevention Week website
  2. Scroll to the bottom of the page and click on ‘Get the toolkit’ in the NPW Planning Toolkit box.
  3. Download ‘Event Ideas’ to get more information on how to organize a National Prevention Week in your school or community.
  4. If you have more questions, contact David Wilson, SAMHSA’s National Prevention Week coordinator, at

If you are a student or parent of a student…
Contact your school administration to see if they would be willing to host events at your school or in your community during National Prevention Week.

Introduce Opioid Education in Classrooms

Teaching school children about the opioid epidemic, whether in a school or as a parent, doesn’t have to be a daunting task. In fact, the National Institution on Drug Abuse has multiple resources put together for teachers and parents. On their website, find more than 90 free classroom lessons, multimedia activities, and more on the effects of drugs and drug use on the brain, body, and life of children and teens.
How can I do that?
ParentsParents can visit the NIDA website and use the resources to help educate their children in the home
TeachersTeachers can visit NIDA’s website to locate and use their lesson plans in the classroom, either as a lesson plan as part of a health class or as a course about addiction.
Parent Teacher OfficersPTO members or school administrators can petition to include addiction and opioid education as part of health curriculum for students of all ages.


Host a Candlelight Vigil

A candlelight vigil is an event where people gather, light candles, and show their support. There are many reasons to organize a candlelight vigil for the opioid crisis, including to raise awareness for the crisis, to draw media attention to the opioid crisis, to show support to families or individuals dealing with opioid addiction, to pay tribute to the deceased, or to quietly protest injustices. The main point of a candlelight vigil is to provide a quiet and comfortable setting where groups of people can meet, support each other, and spread a message.
How can I do that?1. Gather like-minded people who can volunteer to help organize the vigil and support the cause. Also, gather individuals who would be willing to speak to the crowd about the crisis, willing to share their story, or share poems or prayer at the vigil.2. Choose a place for the vigil to be held that is easy for people to find, such a centrally located public park or inside a community center.3. Settle on a date and time that will be appropriate for optimal participation and for the candlelight to make an impact, usually right after dusk.4. Spread the word: use posters, social media, news outlets, emailing, press releases, calling, newspaper advertising, and word of mouth to get the max amount of participants, and media if desired, to your vigil.5. Order candles for the event to pass out to participants.


Support the Prevention Coalition in Your Community

In communities across Tennessee, anti-drug coalitions are working to reduce dependence on harmful and potentially lethal substances, in attempt to stop opioid overdose.
These coalitions are made up of people who care about their communities and are working to promote health and wellness.
Here are some ways coalitions benefit Tennessee communities:
Conduct community-based drug take-back events
Work to standardize penalties for alcohol and drug offenders
Education for individuals handling alcoholic beverage transactions
Monitor current smoke-free ordinances to encourage enforcement
Post anti-drug, anti-alcohol, anti-smoking billboards in the community
Offer a reward for information on illegal drug manufacturing
Engage youth to participate in drug, alcohol, and tobacco-free efforts.

How can I get involeved?1. Check out the Department of Mental Health & Substance Abuse Service’s website to learn more.
2. Click the link titled “Connect with an Anti-Drug Coalition in Your Area” to view an updated spreadsheet of coalitions and contacts
3. Support or join a coaltion in your area.