How the Frenchtown Community Coalition Showed Up for the Dose of Prevention Challenge

The Frenchtown Community Coalition (FCC), located in Frenchtown, Montana, is humbled to be the winner of CADCA’s 2023 Dose of Prevention Challenge. During October, the FCC strived to provide Frenchtown School District (FTSD) and the Frenchtown community with multiple opportunities to learn about prescription drug and over-the-counter (OTC) cough medicine misuse and abuse. This was an exciting, challenging, and beyond-rewarding endeavor.

For the duration of National Medicine Abuse Awareness Month, the FCC created a social media trivia campaign. Each day, a trivia question was posted on both Instagram and Facebook, which invited viewers to test their knowledge of prescription and OTC cough medications. The answers were published every evening. Based on Meta Insights, we reached 3,648 people during the month of October.

National Medicine Abuse Awareness Month Trivia question and answer

To reach the adults in the community, we held two town halls in October. First, the Town Hall Meeting on Youth Marijuana Use, a collaboration with Healthy Missoula Youth, focused on data relating to youth marijuana use in Missoula County and findings from an extensive environmental scan. While this town hall did not specifically discuss medicine abuse, we did distribute the Preventing Teen Cough Medicine Abuse brochure, prescription misuse prevention kits, and offered prescription lock bags/boxes. Additionally, we provided our Hidden in Plain Sight display for attendees. This display is an interactive, mock bedroom that helps parents identify the red flags that may indicate substance use in a teen’s bedroom. In this display, we featured items that may indicate prescription medicine and/or OTC cough medicine abuse (i.e., an empty cough medicine box, an empty soda can, and several diversion items – or items that seem legitimate, but are used for deceptive purposes – such as a water bottle that opens from the bottom to hide substances, a weighted soda can that twists open at the top, and a scrunchie with a hidden zipper).

Mock bedroom and town hall resources

For our second town hall, Lock It Up: Prevent Medicine Abuse in Your Home, we discussed the dangers of prescription medication and OTC cough medicine abuse. More specifically, we discussed how youth obtain and abuse these medications, and what parents can do to prevent medicine abuse in their homes. The presentation also included an opioid overdose reversal training and every attendee was provided a box of Narcan, an OTC nasal spray opioid overdose treatment. Like our first town hall, we also provided everyone with the Preventing Teen Cough Medicine Abuse brochure, a prescription misuse prevention kit (which includes a timer cap bottle that shows the last time the bottle was opened), and, when requested, lock bags/boxes. Our Hidden in Plain Sight display was also available for individuals to try.

In Frenchtown High School, we facilitated an opioid overdose reversal training during lunch one day during Red Ribbon Week. Each student received a box of Narcan and many asked for extra boxes to give to friends and family.

Our next exciting project was an essay contest for 6-12th graders. The essay prompt was:
“Please share some of your dreams and goals. Then, describe how misusing alcohol and drugs* will affect your plans. Finally, explain how you will make healthy choices to reach your goals and dreams.
*Drugs include, but are not limited to: THC concentrates/marijuana, opioids, nicotine/e-cigarettes, prescription drugs, over-the-counter cough medicine, ecstasy/MDMA, cocaine, and meth.”

We received a record number of essay entries, and every single one was worthy of winning first place. Thanks to generous donors in the community, we were able to provide one $250 grand prize, a $20 prize for the winner of each grade level, and Halloween-themed metal sculptures for all winners.

Halloween-themed metal sculptures of a jack-o'-lantern and an alien

In early October, we asked parents of middle school and high school students, teachers, and members of the FCC to write a letter to their student(s) based on the following prompt:
“In this letter, please discuss how you want to see your child succeed. Then, explain how alcohol and drug misuse may negatively impact their lives and prevent them from reaching their goals. Encourage your child to stay away from alcohol and other drugs* while they are in their youth so they can reach their full potential.
*Drugs include, but are not limited to: THC concentrates/marijuana, opioids, nicotine/e-cigarettes, prescription drugs, over-the-counter cough medicine, ecstasy/MDMA, cocaine, and meth.”

We asked parents to drop off, snail mail, or email their letters for us to print off. We organized the letters as they came in and had the wonderful opportunity to deliver them to every 6-12th grade student. Watching students read their letters was one of the most humbling experiences we have ever had. It’s the only time I’ve ever been excited to see students cry (happy/grateful tears, of course!). This was the most exhausting yet rewarding project we have ever organized.

Piles of letters to students

Finally, to end an incredible month, the FCC organized its first Frenchtown Fall Festival. While this was used as a fundraiser for our Youth Leadership Committee, the FCC’s youth sector, our number one goal was to provide a safe, alternative activity for youth over Halloween weekend. That night, we handed out over 100 Preventing Teen Cough Medicine Abuse brochures and even more prevention misuse prevention kits. We incorporated prescription and OTC cough medicine trivia in all of our trivia-related games. Questions were different depending on age; most of which focused on ways students can prevent medicine abuse and how they can create healthy habits. This event brought in hundreds of people – a huge win for a rural community like Frenchtown.

The FCC is so grateful for the Dose of Prevention Challenge, which allowed us to take a step out of our comfort zone. Since the Dose of Prevention Challenge, we have felt more comfortable implementing community-based activities, which have been well attended, and feel we have more support from our community than ever. We would do it all over again in a heartbeat!

Reagan Mecham is the Frenchtown Community Coalition (FCC) Coordinator at Missoula Public Health. She has lived in Frenchtown, MT since she was eight years old and is currently living her dream, serving the community she loves, as the FCC Coordinator. Reagan works closely with the FCC, Frenchtown School District, and Youth Leadership Committee (YLC) to organize and implement strategies to prevent and reduce underage substance use in the Frenchtown community.

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