To the Editor:
The Westfield Board of Health met on April 7, 2014.
Concerning the increasing and serious problem of prescription opiate abuse, the Board of Health will focus on education and increasing awareness.
Parents and families should understand which prescription drugs are in their medicine cabinets and households. In addition, they should know which are most likely to be taken by, experimented with and abused by teenagers and young adults at home. There is also a potential for abusing correctly prescribed opiates, for example, after sports injuries and other needs for pain control.
Parents should do the following:
1) Know what medicines you have; take inventory and account for your medicines.
2) Properly secure your medicines.
3) Prevent unauthorized refills.
4) Properly dispose of your unused, unwanted and expired medicines.
5) Talk to your children about the dangers of prescription drug abuse.
6) Learn to identify high risk behavior and what to do if abuse is suspected.
You can safely and conveniently dispose of unused, unwanted and expired medicines at the Union County Division of Police, 300 North Avenue East in Westfield. It is open every day, 24 hours a day, and more information is at 908-654-9800.
The Westfield Regional Health Department will develop and provide flyers and information on its website about this in the coming months. Until then, more information is available at the American Medicine Chest Challenge at http://www.americanmedicinechest.com and the National Institute of Drug Abuse at http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/prescription-over-counter-medications.
Last year, a number of residents were diagnosed with Lyme disease. The risk of Lyme disease is increasing with the advent of spring, but it can be prevented. Residents should avoid direct contact with ticks by following some simple precautions:
1) Avoid wooded and bushy areas with high grass and leaf litter.
2) Walk in the center of trails.
3) Use appropriate insect repellants.
4) After an outing, check your children and yourself for ticks and remove any ticks found.
5) Check your pets for ticks daily, especially after they are outside, and remove any ticks found.
6) Make your yard less tick friendly by clearing tall grasses and brush.
Other appropriate precautions can be found at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at http://www.cdc.gov/lyme/prev/index.html.
Thirteen initial pre-school immunization audits were completed and initial compliance ranged from 100% for 6 programs to 63%. Nursing counseling was completed and all 5 programs reaudited to date achieved 100% compliance. However, the members of the Board are concerned that the State’s lenient definition for compliance may leave children at risk of vaccine-preventable diseases. As a result, we will look at options for better educating parents.
Finally, we reviewed how the Westfield Regional Health Department compares to other health departments in the state and in the country. Our department costs less than half the state average on a capitated basis compared to similar departments. On the national level, we had only one-fourth of the staff compared to departments serving similar populations.
Information about all of the Health Department’s activities is available on its website http://www.westfieldnj.gov/health. The complete minutes of the April 7 meeting will be posted after review and approval at our May 5 meeting, which starts at 5:30 PM in the Municipal Building. The public is invited to attend.
Lawrence D. Budnick, MD
President, Westfield Board of Health