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HopeRx to fight prescription drug abuse

Don Huneycutt warns parents of the mortal danger of prescription drug addiction. Don Huneycutt warns parents of the mortal danger of prescription drug addiction.

As they had done many times before, Julie and Don Huneycutt stood to testify. Their credential as expert witnesses? A lifetime of grief over the death of a child.

"Parents," said Don Huneycutt, "and this is for parents: Now is the time to address the problem of prescription drugs in our community. Do not think that this does not apply to you and your children — please. Peer pressure and outside influences bombard your children every day. You will not always be there to direct and protect them. There comes a time when they will have to stand on their own two feet. Your social status, your financial status, your faith — none of that will make your child exempt from the influences of prescription drugs."
The Huneycutts had all that — a beautiful family, friends, a good reputation in the community, and Anna.
Anna, said Julie Huneycutt, "did not go to kindergarten the first day of class and declare that she wanted to become an addict when she grew up. Yet that is what took her from us."
Multiple trips to hospitals, rehab centers, detox programs and jail did nothing to change her path.
"We wanted our daughter back," she said. "Tragically for us, and many other families in this community, we were unsuccessful."
Since they lost Anna at age 20 three years ago, the Huneycutts have gained a passion for spreading the word about prescription drug addiction, warning parents and fighting to prevent the next child from plunging into the pain pill chasm.
On Tuesday the couple was joined by dozens of partners who vow to harness the power of medicine, the justice system, law enforcement and mental health agencies to fight prescription drug abuse. Called HopeRx, the effort was formed by the Partnership for Health of Henderson County.
Also speaking at the launch were Judith Long, executive director of the Free Clinics and a member of the Partnership for Health board; Dr. Shannon Dowler, chief medical officer for Blue Ridge Community Health Services; Athena Brooks, chief District Court judge for Henderson, Polk and Transylvania counties; and Todd Singer, HopeRx project coordinator.
Prescription drug abuse and accidental overdose do not discriminate.
"In fact, our sheriff, Charlie McDonald, has said, Parents, be aware: your medicine cabinets have become a loaded gun," Singer said.
HopeRx will host a community conversation about the problem at 8 a.m. on Nov. 7 at the Blue Ridge Conference Hall at BRCC and it plans a bigger town hall meeting to promote education and awareness next spring.
"HopeRx believes that the citizens of Henderson County are ultimately responsible for their own health and that every prescription drug overdose is preventable," Singer said.
Law officers say prescription drug addiction is responsible for much of the property crime in Henderson County.
"It's huge," said Sheriff's Department Maj. Frank Stout. "If you will look at our breaking and enterings and much of the crime we deal with day in and day out you will find out that it's linked to prescription drug abuse because they're stealing to support their habit.
"When you reach the dependency on prescription drugs that we have here, these children are stealing from their parents, they're stealing from their grandparents, they're stealing from people they know and they're stealing from people they don't know. It's almost epidemic."