PreventionWorkz fighting for teens for more than 20 years

From the Pioneering Spirit 2016: Community Service series

ENID, Okla. — PreventionWorkz Inc. has been the regional Area Prevention Resource Center conducting comprehensive research based alcohol, tobacco and other drug prevention for more than 20 years.

Executive Director Sean Byrne said he first joined PreventionWorkz in 1998 and in the following years the efforts to affect prevention have changed.

“There was a big focus on school-based programs. Getting out talking to the kids. Programs similar to the (drug abuse resistance and education program) DARE but not DARE,” he said. “These were what we termed primary-prevention programs, reducing the demand for drugs through educating kids and dealing with life stressors, different coping mechanisms, offering ways of refusing drugs alcohol and tobacco at that time.

“Over the years, it’s changed to a much more systematic changing of the environment factors, and that’s where we kind of are right now.”

Byrne said the organization’s grants have changed its focus.

“We have two primary focuses currently from our grants,” he said. “One of them is prevention of underage drinking and the other one is prevention of prescription drug abuse.”

The executive director said there are several areas PreventionWorkz is focusing on to achieve its goals.

Alcohol out of reach

“Part of that prevention of underage drinking is reducing retail availability to alcohol and offering the responsible beverage service training,” Byrne said. “We also look at policies retailers have and try to help retailers, individuals doing events, help them establish policies that reduce the likelihood of underage individuals obtaining alcohol.”

He said the organization also is looking at another way of reducing availability of alcohol to those underage.

“We want to reduce social availably also. One of the new strategies we’re working on this year is the social host law,” Byrne said. “Working on educating adults that hosting underage drinking parties is not safe and it’s not preventing the bad things that happened when kids drink. It’s actually making them worse. 

“If a parent wants to give alcohol to their own child that’s not an issue we’re addressing,” he said. “But they are hosting parties and undermining the authority of other parents.”

Dispose unused meds

Byrne said PreventionWorkz is using multiple strategies to combat the abuse of prescription painkillers, one of which is drug drop-off sites.

“It’s getting the unused meds out of houses and dropping it off someplace safe,” he said. “We know a huge way people get a hold of these drugs is by raiding people’s medicine cabinets.”

He said using the locations provided by Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangers Drugs — in the lobbies of Enid Police Department and Garfield County Sheriff’s Office — allows the drugs to be safely disposed of by a Tulsa-based company.

“We’re also working with doctors in being aware and being alert for individuals who are doctor shopping, implementing policies at that level to check the online database to see if individuals already have a prescription from someone else,” he said. “A lot of doctors are very aware of the need to reduce opioids scripts and helping people receive painkillers. The majority of our doctors in Enid are awesome at getting people off of opioids.”

 

Byrne said PreventionWorkz has partnered with both Enid hospitals and all the area’s law enforcement agencies to work on achieving its goals.

“We’ve been the prevention agency here for 22 years,” he said. “We’ve developed a lot of really strong partnership and people recognize these issues.”

Byrne said PreventionWorkz also tries to identify emerging trends in an attempt to get ahead of issues.

“We do a lot more educating of parents, of policymakers, of teachers, individuals who are in positions to make a magnified impact. We recognize just going out and talking to kids is going to be a never-ending chore,” he said. “If we train others in recognizing and preventing substance abuse the issues are never going to get there. We can’t do this by ourselves.”

Be parent, not friend

Byrne said his motivation for his work comes in part from the death of a friend in an alcohol-related accident.

“I lost a friend to drunk-driving accident,” he said. “Me and my friends, we drank in high school, and we drank to excess.”

Byrne said most teens ignore the dangers of such drinking and only see those who escape terrible consequences.

“Unfortunately, they see the skewed results. They see those of who us who made it through,” he said. “They don’t see people like my friend, Ronnie, who wrapped his car around a tree at 70 mph because he was driving drunk. People don’t have to die. This is completely preventable.”

Byrne said he no longer wants to see the names of teens who have died from drugs and alcohol on memorials.

“That’s why we do what we do,” he said. “When something bad happens and people say, ‘This was horrible. There was nothing anyone could do.’ Yes, there was. You just have to talk to your kids about alcohol and drug abuse. You have to let them know about your values and set strong boundaries.

“You have to be the parent and not the friend. Punishing them now may save their life later.”

Here’s how to help

Byrne encouraged those in the public who want to help to attend the monthly meeting of the Garfield County Drug and Alcohol Coalition.

“We want people to come to these meetings and share what they’re seeing, the problems they’re seeing,” he said. “We want to share the desire to help change.”

The coalition meets at 10 a.m. on the second Wednesday of each month at Five80 Coffeehouse, 122 E. Randolph.

Anyone interested in being involved is encouraged to attend or get more information at (580) 234-1046 or sean.byrne@preventionworkz.org.