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

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

Picture of Bill Macfadyen

This article was written by Noozhawk Intern Alexa Shapiro as part of Day 4 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 Three:

» Understanding Addiction Key to Dealing With Prescription Drug Abuse

» Donna Genera Has Seen the Price and Perils of Drug Addiction from All Sides

» Rich Detty Bears Burden of Not Knowing Extent of Dead Son's Drug Use

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

Through video interviews, teenagers expand scope of Noozhawk's project and discover they have their own stories to tell
Monday, September 19, 2011

A group of six sits around a table at the Goleta Coffee Company, explaining the scope of the Santa Barbara Teen News Network.

“It’s a teen-run news show, by teens for teens,” said 17-year-old Billy Spencer, a San Marcos High School senior who explained that sbTNN features things to do in Santa Barbara, like community service and activities that teenagers can participate in.

“Basically it’s a teen scene magazine,” added Trisha Geyer, associate director and chief financial officer at the Patricia Henley Foundation, the nonprofit organization that created and sponsors sbTNN.

Now in its third season, sbTNN aims to provide “accessible and community-based performing arts programs, dedicated to developing passion, communication and performing arts leadership in the youth of (Santa Barbara),” the organization says on its Web site. Through donations from local businesses and individuals, sbTNN produces weekly television shows that are broadcast on the Santa Barbara Channels public-access TV station and through Noozhawk, the group’s media sponsor.

Since June, sbTNN has been working with Noozhawk to create public service announcements for Prescription for Abuse, Noozhawk’s six-week investigative series on the misuse and abuse of prescription medications in Santa Barbara County. The PSA videos, which feature many of the sources Noozhawk reporters interviewed for the series, are being posted alongside the articles.

Hailey Sestak, a 17-year-old Santa Barbara High School senior, said sbTNN has produced 28 public service announcements for Prescription for Abuse, which Noozhawk began publishing Sept. 12.

Through interviews with community members and research, the teens working on the public service announcements have learned a lot about prescription medication use locally.

“We interviewed doctors and recovering addicts,” said Spencer, adding that much of what they learned involved prevention and how to get help for addictions.

But many of the people interviewed talked about prescription drug use among teenagers, said Kristen Cool, Geyer’s assistant at the Patricia Henley Foundation.

People tend to think that drinking is the largest problem that high school and middle school students face, said Sestak.

“(Prescription drugs is) an underlying issue,” she said.

Ashley Almada, a 15-year-old sophomore at Dos Pueblos High School, said she felt that the people they interviewed talked to them because of their close connection to youth.

“We’re living (with those who misuse prescription drugs) and can help guide them,” she said.

Sestak found that everyone she interviewed was enthusiastic about the project.

“Everyone was really caring and just wanted to help,” said Sestak, adding that they weren’t mad or blaming their patients for their addictions.

After each interview, the teens felt they had learned a lot. In Cool’s case, she couldn’t stop sharing the information and knowledge she had gained when she got home from an interview. She was so interested in the new things she had learned that she talked about it to those around her frequently, she said.

The teens were given the opportunity to do the public service announcements through Garrett Geyer, a Noozhawk intern who also works with sbTNN and is Geyer’s son. From there, the sbTNN crew started interviewing and researching prescription drug use and putting together their series of public service announcements.

Bill Macfadyen, Noozhawk’s founder and publisher, said he and his team were excited to work with sbTNN for a number of reasons.

“Drug abuse is rampant among teenagers, and we’ve focused a large part of our series on their parents, who account for much of Noozhawk’s readership,” he said. “When we had the idea to include videos as part of our project, we figured if sources were sitting across from a teenager, subconsciously they would respond in ways that would better connect with youth. We hope their messages resonate.

“We’re also privileged to sponsor sbTNN and thought the scope of this opportunity would really push the kids out of their comfort zone, and let them experience the career and entrepreneurial aspects of what they’re doing. I’m really proud of them for how they met the challenge. Their work is very professional.”

The teenagers involved in the project felt compelled to report on what they found in their own research on prescription drugs.

“I love reporting on things that benefit the community,” said Sestak.

With the sources she interviewed for the Prescription for Abuse project, she said she would see “their passion (for helping others with addictions) and feel an obligation to tell the story right.”

Spencer said he wanted to help to tell the stories of those interviewed in an effort to prevent others from developing addictions to prescription medications. “Especially with our age group,” he added.

“We see our friends doing these things, and it’s cool to be on the other side of the issue and know there are other ways to avoid growing addictions and misusing drugs,” Sestak said.

Noozhawk intern Alexa Shapiro can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.