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Bill Macfadyen: Prescription for Abuse Project Is a Series of Opportunities

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Bill Macfadyen: Prescription for Abuse Project Is a Series of Opportunities

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This article was written by Noozhawk Founder and Publisher Bill Macfadyen as part of Day 1 in Noozhawk's 12-day, six-week special investigative series. Related links are below.

The Noozhawk's Prescription for Abuse series is a special project exploring the misuse and abuse of prescription medications in Santa Barbara County. Our series is a result of an exciting and unique partnership with USC's Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, which awarded Noozhawk a California Endowment Health Journalism Fellowship to undertake this important work.

Through our reporting and presentation, we will establish an independent baseline of where our community is with respect to the misuse and abuse of prescription medications; how the problem is affecting health care, education, law enforcement, criminal justice, addiction and treatment, and our culture and society; what we as a community can do to educate ourselves about prevention and controls; and how we can perhaps reverse what appears to be a very troubling trend.

Noozhawk staff writers Lara Cooper and Giana Magnoli are the lead reporters on the project, and they've been assisted by managing editor Michelle Nelson; reporters Alex Kacik and Sonia Fernandez; interns Kristin Crosier, Jessica Ferguson, Tim Fucci, Kristen Gowdy, Jessica Haro, Daniel Langhorne, Alexa Shapiro, Sam Skopp, Erin Stone and Sarah Webb; photographers Garrett Geyer and Nick St.Oegger; content producer Cliff Redding; and Web development staffers Will Macfadyen and Edgar Oliveira.

Ashley Almada, Garrett Geyer, Hailey Sestak and Billy Spencer of the Santa Barbara Teen News Network filmed more than two dozen public-service videos featuring many of our story sources.

The project is sponsored by the Santa Barbara Foundation in partnership with KEYT, sbTNN and Zona Seca. The Annenberg School is assisted by the Renaissance Journalism Center at San Francisco State University.

Day One:

» Quiet Epidemic of Prescription Drug Abuse Taking a Toll on Santa Barbara County

» After Losing It All, Former Drug Addict Looking Forward to Renewed Life

» USC, California Endowment Unite to Support Health Journalism at the Source

» Bill Macfadyen: Prescription for Abuse Project Is a Series of Opportunities

Day Two:

» Local, National Statistics Reveal Alarming Jumps in Misuse and Abuse of Medications

» Marijuana Use Trends Higher, Especially Among Young Adults, Sparking Public Health Concerns

» Alcohol Plays a Role All Its Own in Setting the Stage for Local Abuse, Overdoses

Day Four:

» Escalation of Drug Overdose Deaths Includes Increased Presence of Prescription Medications

» Santa Barbara Teen News Network Adds Another Dimension to Prescription Drug Abuse Series

» Dr. Chris Lambert Sounds Warning on Mixing Prescription Drugs with Alcohol

Day Five:

» Local Oversight of Prescription Medications Is Far More Focused Than State, Federal Controls

» Elderly Are Particularly Vulnerable to Both Misuse and Abuse of Prescription Drugs

» Second-Generation Pharmacist Peter Caldwell Fills a Vital Role with Patient Health Care

Day Six:

» Early Education for Parents and Youth Emerges as Critical Tactic to Thwart Drug Use

» Student Highs Can Lead to Tragic Woes with Addiction's Hook Just One Fateful Step Away

» From an Early Age, Shereen Khatapoush Saw the Horrors of Substance Abuse

» As a Parent Herself, Prosecutor Von Nguyen Brings Empathy to Job in Juvenile Justice

Day Seven:

» Law Enforcement Fights Battle Against Prescription Drug Abuse from Outside and Inside

» Sheriff Bill Brown a Strong Supporter of Re-Entry, Drug Abuse Treatment Efforts

» Speaking from Experience, Zona Seca's Kevin Smith Keeps Drug Abusers on Road to Recovery

Day Eight:

» Prescription Drug System Is Rife with Loopholes, Fraud and Lack of Oversight

» For Clinical Psychologist Neil Rocklin, Addiction Education Can't Begin Soon Enough

Day Nine:

» Drug Abuse Treatment Programs, Expertise Are Plentiful on South Coast

» Dr. David Agnew Sees Pain as Pathway to Abuse But Cautions Against Overreaction

Day Ten:

» Awareness, Disposal Key Elements to Reversing Tide of Prescription Drug Abuse

» Dr. Joe Blum Keeps Focus on His Veteran Patients Despite Health-Care System's Restraints

Day Eleven:

» Operation Medicine Cabinet Gets the Drop on Prescription Drug Disposal

» Lacey Johnson Gives UCSB Students an Education in Dealing with Drug Abuse and Addiction

Day Twelve:

» Santa Barbara County Officials Look for Solutions in Battle Against Prescription Drug Abuse

» Noozhawk Journalists Recount Lessons Learned from Prescription Drug Abuse Series

» Annenberg Fellowships Take a Diverse Approach to Community Health Journalism

» Dr. Nancy Leffert Champions Antioch University's Role in Fight Against Substance Abuse

» Professionals Working in Addiction Field Often Share Roots at Antioch University Santa Barbara

From a chance phone call, Noozhawk embarks on a voyage of discovery
Sunday, September 11, 2011

Noozhawk is the most fun I’ve ever had professionally, and I think the thing that excites me the most is that there’s no roadmap for where we’re going.

We’re pioneers in the New Media world. We have to rely on our inner entrepreneurs and look for opportunities where they are, not where we expect them to be.

A case in point: Late last year, I received a phone call from Martha Shirk, program consultant for the California Endowment Health Journalism Fellowships at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism. She asked if we might be interested in applying for a fellowship to explore a public health issue in our community. Believe it or not, we actually had a couple of issues on our radar and I leaped at the chance.

A few months later, our application was accepted and we embarked on a quest to explore the misuse and abuse of prescription medications in Santa Barbara County. Today, we begin Prescription for Abuse, our 12-day, six-week special report on what we found.

It’s not a pretty picture. Just as it is in our country, drug abuse is out of control in our community. In what will come as a surprise to many readers, however, the problem is not limited to illegal narcotics like cocaine, heroin and marijuana. Some of the most often abused drugs — and the most addictive — are perfectly legal medications prescribed by one of the professionals you trust on the most personal of levels, your doctor.

All age levels are affected in some way. Among youth, the intentional abuse of prescription drugs is shockingly common. Seniors are more likely to be misusing prescriptions. In between, well, almost all of us are guilty of carelessness when it comes to controls or disregarding instructions — or worse.

For the last several months, Noozhawk reporters Lara Cooper and Giana Magnoli and the rest of our team have been researching, interviewing and compiling what I think you’ll agree is a comprehensive and engaging look at this issue. We’ll be establishing an independent baseline of the local problem and how it affects health care, education, law enforcement, criminal justice, addiction and treatment, and our culture and society. Later in the series, we’ll turn our attention to what we as a community can do to educate ourselves about prevention and controls, and how we can perhaps reverse this very troubling trend.

It’s not all doom and gloom. Along the way I’ve been impressed with the candor and determination of local medical administrators, physicians and nurses who are working tirelessly to get control of the problem. Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown and District Attorney Joyce Dudley have graciously gone above and beyond to make their top officers, detectives, prosecutors, investigators and data available to us.

Santa Barbara County is blessed to have a number of first-rate addiction and treatment programs like Zona Seca, the Santa Barbara Council on Alcoholism & Drug Abuse, Recovery Road Medical Center, Full Spectrum Recovery and many more. Several of the programs are available at very little cost.

Equally important are the collaborative relationships we’ve established. The Santa Barbara Foundation quickly grasped the educational value of this project and signed on as a sponsor, as did Zona Seca. KEYT — through the efforts of news director C.J. Ward and Smith Media vice president and CEO Mike Granados — agreed to partner with us and will be introducing additional reporting resources as the series progresses.

One of our most exciting discoveries, however, was already right there on our homepage: The Santa Barbara Teen News Network we’ve had the privilege of sponsoring for the last year. In July, we asked Trixie Geyer, associate director of the Patricia Henley Foundation, which funds the program, if the sbTNN students would like to shoot a few public-service announcement videos for us. Ashley Almada, Garrett Geyer, Hailey Sestak and Billy Spencer immediately agreed, and in about a two-week period they filmed, edited and produced nearly three dozen videos with many of the sources in our stories. Beginning next week, we’ll be introducing them throughout our series, but you can click here to view the first one. You’re going to love them!

Finally, a note about the timeline of Prescription for Abuse. Each day of the series will represent a specific theme, and we’ll be publishing the themes on Mondays and Tuesdays for six weeks. We know few of you want to hear about drugs for 12 consecutive days so we thought this schedule would provide consistency and continuity, while allowing you to reflect on and respond to what you’re reading. Equally important, we know we’ll be interacting with you as we go so we wanted to build in time so that KEYT and Noozhawk could follow up on your tips and provide additional context and resources for you.

As Noozhawk’s founder and publisher, I’m proud of the work our team has done to bring attention to this most important issue. We’re honored that our company has this opportunity to serve our community in this way and with this project. We think we will be making a positive difference in Santa Barbara, and we hope that you will join us to ensure that we do.

Noozhawk publisher Bill Macfadyen can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.