Focusing on the opioid abuse epidemic now raging throughout the U.S., Garden State Pharmacy Owners (GSPO) has established a program to provide relevant, potentially life-saving information to New Jersey’s nearly 300,000 high school student-athletes. The GSPO Stop Opioid Abuse Program – which will be known by its acronym, SOAP – will regularly share student-focused materials with public, private, and parochial high schools across New Jersey. Each school may then determine how best to distribute the information to its athletes, as well as to coaches and trainers.
Statewide distribution will be coordinated for SOAP by the NJSIAA (New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association), the governing body for scholastic sports throughout the state, which represents 435 member high schools and their scholastic athletes. Some of the informational materials provided, both in online and printed form, will be provided by the Partnership for a Drug Free New Jersey (PDFNJ).
“As pharmacy owners, our members are well aware of the impact opioid abuse is having in our state and around the country,” says Marty Miller, GSPO’s executive director. “Our organization felt compelled to do something to address this terrible situation, and our unwavering commitment to our communities – coupled with support from both the NJSIAA and the Partnership – gives us a platform to communicate effectively with a seriously at-risk population, high school athletes.”
Students who participate in high school sports are particularly vulnerable to abusing powerful painkillers, because injuries sustained during competition often lead to an opioid prescription.
“Given our mission to serve and protect student-athletes, we’re enthusiastic about any program that may curtail the likelihood of opioid abuse,” says Steve Timko, executive director of the NJSIAA. “Certainly, the idea of using NJSIAA’s extensive communication network to reach New Jersey’s student-athletes was extremely well conceived.”
Other components of the SOAP initiative will include additional community outreach, regular updates to and interaction with state legislators and drug manufacturers, plus volunteer efforts by GSPO members.
“With the misuse of opioids becoming an increasingly serious problem among high school students, who are at a 33 percent greater risk of future opioid misuse if they are prescribed opioids before high school graduation, SOAP provides an excellent opportunity to deliver critical, life-saving information to student athletes, parents, coaches and trainers,” says PDFNJ Executive Director Angelo Valente. "The Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey lauds the leadership of the GSPO and NJSIAA in initiating outreach to students potentially more vulnerable to opioid misuse."