Efforts by a group of Surry County students to keep their classmates from falling victim to prescription drug abuse have led to recognition by a national organization.
A task force of seven students has worked since last year to build awareness among their peers of a problem labeled epidemic in the county — one that caused the overdose deaths of at least 30 Surry residents last year.
The students were visited in recent days by April Rovero, a California resident who is the founder and president of the National Coalition Against Prescription Drug Abuse. Rovero presented each with certificates honoring their commitment and heard about their drug-related accomplishments as well as plans.
“I would say that I was just overwhelmed and impressed by their level of dedication to this cause,” said Rovero, who founded the coalition after her own son, a college student, fell victim to prescription drug misuse.
The seven-member task force was selected from among students of local high schools and middle schools by their principals as part of a countywide effort labeled Project Lazarus-Surry. With other facets of the local program geared toward the adult population, the student group has sought to influence its peers regarding dangerous medications.
Their collective efforts have included giving presentations, developing poster campaigns and producing video programs highlighting the risks.
Taylor Joyce, a senior at East Surry High School who is a member of the task force, also designed a thought-provoking T-shirt bearing the message, “Don’t let your friend become another statistic — just one pill can kill.”
“Each one of them had done something,” Rovero said Tuesday of the local students’ projects, and added that they also outlined to her their plans for more programs as part of the ongoing need to tackle prescription drug issues. The national coalition official said they have not been afraid to take what might be an unpopular position with some fellow students over the practice of “getting high.”
“So that was impressive, to have young kids stand up and say, ‘this is something we don’t want.’”
In addition to Taylor Joyce, the task force includes Meagan Hutson, Salem Poindexter, Brittani Sumlin, Michela Coppola, Colton Hodges and Madison Fields.
Son’s Death Sparked Action
While visiting Surry County, the California drug activist also met Frankie Andrews, area coordinator for North Carolina of the National Coalition Against Prescription Drug Abuse. Andrews lost two nephews to overdose deaths.
Rovero also knows firsthand the problems that misuse and abuse of prescription drugs can cause, due to the death of her son Joey almost three years ago while he was a 21-year-old senior at Arizona State University.
The doctor supplying prescription drugs to him, who was linked to a second death as well, is now facing trial for murder and other charges as a result, said Rovero. She added that other details about the coalition can be found on the website ncapda.org.
Rovero launched the national organization soon after Joey’s death in the hopes that it would lead to families being spared the pain hers has suffered. Efforts such as those by the Surry students might directly lead to other parents not receiving the same devastating news she once did, Rovero said.
“It hit us like a ton of bricks.”
Reach Tom Joyce at 719-1924 or email@example.com.