Coalition takes steps to address drug issues in county

The Sussex County Action Prevention Coalition (SCAPC) met this week to discuss the group’s mission to address the growing drug problem in the state and county.

“In order to conquer addiction in our communities, we need teamwork, we need programs, we need education,” said Jim Martin, who chairs the coalition.

More than two dozen people attended the meeting, including representatives from the Delaware Division of Prevention & Behavioral Health Services, Narcotics Anonymous, Recovery Innovations and the ACE Peer Resource Center.

Martin said that, over the last month, the coalition has been working on creating its goals.

“We’ve been putting together ideas,” he said. “I really want input from all these folks in the room. These are your areas of expertise, and we want direction.”

During each monthly meeting, the coalition plans to highlight a different agency. At Tuesday’s meeting, Bridgette Buckaloo, executive director of Beebe Healthcare’s Women Health Services, told the group how Beebe has been approaching the growing drug issue.

Buckaloo said they are concerned about neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), a complex withdrawal syndrome seen in infants with chronic intrauterine exposure to opioid drugs. She noted a great deal of prescription misuse or abuse, as almost 22 percent of pregnant Medicaid beneficiaries fill a prescription for opioids during their pregnancies.

Buckaloo said every mother who presents themselves at Beebe’s labor and delivery department is drug-tested.

“We’ve had a lot of positives,” she said. “It’s becoming the norm now, not the exception… We’re celebrating the negative drug screen.”

Infants with NAS suffer from tremors, diarrhea and autonomic dysregulation. They are also at higher risk for child abuse, neglect and SIDS.

At Beebe, they have already seen an increase of infants with NAS in the last few years. In the 2013 fiscal year, they had 19; with 38 in 2014; and 10 in the current year-to-date.

“We have this epidemic,” she said. “We know these newborns are exposed to this, and we don’t know what this means long-term. We have no idea what this is going to do to our society as a whole in the future. There’s a lot of unknowns, which can be really frightening.”

Beebe also runs a support group for those mothers, which meets once a month.

“Our desire is to do it more frequently,” said Ann Regacho, a case manager at Beebe who runs the support group. “It’s amazing to watch these girls support themselves and each other. They don’t have to come to our support group, but they want to.”

Buckaloo said it does take a village to raise a child, and, luckily, the coalition can be that village.

Dupree Johnson spoke about the importance of educating youth about drugs, and showing them support. He said a youth conference would be held on Thursday, May 7, at the Rehoboth Convention Center, and he hopes many area school children will be able to attend.

SCAPC is an established coalition with a four-year history; however, the Seaford group is a new chapter. The coalition has a two-pronged structure, bringing members of the community and agencies together to address the problem from all fronts.

“There’s a lot of resources we have at hand, and there are a lot of new ones that are starting to form,” said Bridgette Knoeller, who co-chairs the coalition. “I honestly believe that this groundwork that we have right now is not only going to further education but a support system that Delaware has never had before.”

The public meetings of the Seaford chapter of SCAPC are being held the first Tuesday of every month in the Lighted Pathways Family Life Center, next door to the Stein Highway Church of God.

The next meeting will be held May 5 at 10 a.m., with a presentation given by Jennifer Showers of Stevenson House. The June meeting will feature a presentation from the Seaford Police Department and the Delaware State Police.

Stein Highway Church of God is located at 425 E. Stein Highway in Seaford.