Safe disposal of unused opioid medications is an important part of addressing the opioid epidemic. According to Allied Against Opioid Abuse, about 40.5% of unused medications are a source for misuse and overdose. The Health Quality Innovation Network’s (HQIN) medication safety team created a program called Mind Your Meds that engages and empowers older adults by educating them about safe medication use and disposal and empowering them to take action based on what they learned.
Mind Your Meds, first developed in Virginia by Health Quality Innovators (HQI), which leads HQIN, began with a meeting between HQI’s pharmacist, Cindy Warriner and Senior Connections, the Capital Area Agency on Aging. Together, Warriner and Senior Connections designed educational materials and HQI successfully piloted the program with a foster grandparent group. This led to interest from other organizations that support older adults.
The conclusion of the program challenges participants to clean out their medicine cabinets and properly dispose of their old medications. They are also asked to encourage a friend or group to do the same. At the meeting following the pilot presentation, 20 of the 28 participants said they cleaned out their medicine cabinet and disposed of old or unused medications properly. Additionally, nearly half of the participants said they asked another person or group to complete the same process.
The successful pilot led to HQI offering the Mind Your Meds program to the Richmond community, an opioid hotspot. HQI also partners with the Virginia Association of Area Agencies on Aging (VAAAA) to spread the program to additional hotspots throughout the state by providing training to local pharmacies so they can deliver training to each Area Agency on Aging (AAA) region.
With many in-person meetings being canceled due to COVID-19, HQIN, in collaboration with the Geriatric Workforce Enhancement Program (GWEP), VirginiaNavigator and the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Pharmacy, produced a virtual version of the program. The focus is to engage and empower patients, caregivers, and communities in tackling the opioid crisis by safely disposing of medications, despite the restrictions and challenges created by the pandemic.