As the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic persists, families with substance abuse disorders face many challenges.

According to the CDC, stress during COVID-19 can lead to an increased incidence of substance abuse.1 Mental health and substance abuse can take a large toll on families, especially children as many school resources are not currently available during the pandemic across the United States. 

Sesame Street in Communities (SSIC), in partnership with DisposeRx, has taken the initiative to expand its parental addiction program with a new webinar series for the health care community including child and family therapists, first responders, community leaders, pharmacists, physicians, and other service providers.2 The goal of the webinar series is to provide new resources and tools for the health care community, and to serve as a support system for children affected by parental addiction.

Pharmacists can play an important role in substance abuse awareness and prevention, and the series is funded by DisposeRx, a company with a prescription drug abuse prevention initiative aimed at appropriate drug disposal of unused medications.3 The DisposeRx patented drug disposal packets and education programs are currently available at almost 50% of retail pharmacies, and through 90% of the wholesale pharmacy and medical distributors across the nation.3

The webinars are free to viewers and available on any platform, and they provide information on how to incorporate tools into the daily practice routine.

Last fall, SSIC introduced Parental Addiction resources for families featuring Karli, a 6-year-old Sesame Street Muppet whose mother struggles with substance abuse and addiction.4,5 The new workshop for the health care community will feature 4 webinars with the first beginning July 29, 2020. Entitled “The Child’s Voice:  How Parental Addiction Affects Young Children,” the first webinar presents Sis Wenger, president and chief executive officer, National Association for Children of Addiction, to discuss strategies to offer support and care.

The subsequent 3 webinars will take place on August 26, 2020, September 30, 2020, and October 28, 2020. These webinars will include speakers from the Hazelden Betty Ford Children’s Program, Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities Center for Health and Justice, and faith-based programs, respectively.

Sesame Workshop is the nonprofit educational organization behind Sesame Street “with a mission to help kids everywhere grow smarter, stronger, and kinder.”2 Jeanette Betancourt, EdD, Sesame Workshop’s senior vice president, US Social Impact discussed the new webinar series in an interview with Pharmacy Times

“Substance abuse and parental addiction are on the rise,” said Betancourt.

According to Betancourt, the webinars were created as part of a multidisciplinary approach to patient care to help children cope with parental addiction. “Pharmacists are critical and part of the circle of care,” she said.

In an interview with Pharmacy Times, William Simpson, president of DisposeRx discussed the partnership with Sesame Workshop.

“We feel it’s an amazing opportunity to educate the community,” said Simpson. 

Simpson discussed that after learning about the new Muppet Karli, he knew the company wanted to get involved with the education initiative. Proper drug disposal also plays such an important part of decreasing the opioid epidemic, and DisposeRx hopes the Sesame Workshop initiative opens the door to other outreach initiatives. 

“If we can help with education, we think it will make a difference,” said Simpson. 

Pharmacists are an integral part of the community, and DisposeRx has received positive feedback from the pharmacies they serve about the Sesame Workshop partnership.


REFERENCES
  1. CDC. Coronavirus disease: Alcohol & substance use. CDC website. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/stress-coping/alcohol-use.html. Updated June 12, 2020. Accessed July 28, 2020.  
  2. Sesame Workshop Launches New Webinar Series on Substance Abuse and Parental Addiction to Help Providers Support Children and Families [news release]. New York,  NY, and Sanford, NC; July 29, 2020: Sesame Street in Communities and DisposeRx.  https://disposerx.com/press.show/42/Sesame-Workshop-Launches-New-Webinar-Series-on-Substance-Abuse-and-Parental-Addiction-to-Help-Providers-Support-Children-and-Families. Accessed July 29, 2020. 
  3. DisposeRx, Inc. About DisposeRx. DisposeRx website. https://disposerx.com/page/2/about-us-mission. Accessed July 28, 2020. 
  4. Gershman J. Helping children understand the opioid epidemic with new Sesame Street character. Pharmacy Timeshttps://www.pharmacytimes.com/contributor/jennifer-gershman-pharmd-cph/2019/10/helping-children-understand-the-opioid-epidemic-with-new-sesame-street-character.  Published October 11, 2019.  Accessed July 28, 2020.
  5. Sesame Street In Communities. Parental addiction. SSIC website. https://sesamestreetincommunities.org/topics/parental-addiction/. Accessed July 28, 2020.