By Cathy Spaulding
Phoenix Staff Writer
Muskogee grandmother Terry Coward says she feels secure having a code-activated locking medicine cabinet in a closet.
“It’s the security of knowing my children won’t get into my medications,” said Coward, who lives with five grandchildren. “You can talk to them and talk to them about leaving my medications alone, but children do find things.”
The community action organization Neighbors Building Neighborhoods hopes to get hundreds such lockboxes into Muskogee homes over the next year. The lockboxes can be opened only by punching a code on the keypad.
“We want to provide community members with a way to lock up their medications and keep them out of the hands of kids,” said Neighbors Building Neighborhoods director Lindsey Roberts. “We currently have 500 we’ll put out through the community.”
The organization is working with agencies, businesses and organizations to distribute the lockboxes to people who need them, said Brittany Beasley, an SPF-SIG coordinator with Neighbors Building Neighborhoods. Beasley said programs include the Oklahoma Housing Authority and St. Francis Hospice.
Lockboxes also would be distributed at the organization’s events, such as a prescription take-back day planned for October, Beasley said.
“Or people can call us and we will assess their need,” she said. Neighbors Building Neighborhoods can be reached at (918) 683-4600.
“We’re going to gauge our success after a year, then reassess to see if there is still a need,” Roberts said.
Roberts said prescription drug abuse is a problem in Muskogee County. She cited information from the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics saying the county had 87 opioid analgesic deaths between 1999 and 2010, a rate of 11.1 per 100,000 population. In 2009, Oklahoma had the highest prevalence of prescription painkiller abuse for people 12 and older, according to bureau statistics.
Roberts said she wants to make people aware “they can be part of the solution.”
The Muskogee Housing Authority is installing 32 of the lockboxes in its homes throughout Muskogee, said Blake Farris, Muskogee Housing Authority executive director.
Coward, who moved into a Muskogee Housing Authority home in July, had her lockbox installed earlier this week.
“I never had any problems with the children getting into my medication,” she said. “This way, I’m sure they can’t.”