Nursing student helps city fight growing use of heroin

Tuesday, April 22, 2014 1:45:00 PM

Recent media reports have been dominated by headlines regarding the rise of heroin use, leaving  communities across the country scrambling to find the best ways to counteract this alarming trend.

The city of Cudahy, Wis. Is no exception, but they recently found a helpful ally to give structure and direction to their public information efforts: Stritch Bachelor of Science in Nursing student Molly Janas.

As part of her degree requirements, Janas was expected to complete a clinical practicum in the community. Janas, who presently works as an inpatient acute mental health nurse at the Milwaukee County Mental Health Complex, was placed at the Cudahy Health Department.

Once there, she found herself in a unique position to apply her coursework, professional background, and interests to an emerging and dangerous trend.

“The health officer told me that there was a growing heroin issue in Cudahy and they didn’t currently have resources for it,” she said. “I thought that it would be a good project since I have a background in mental health.”

Heroin Poster Presentation

According to the Wisconsin Department of Justice website, the number of teens between the ages of 12 and 17 who have tried heroin has increased by more than 300% since 1995. The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence reports that more than 75% of people who try heroin will use the drug again. 

Janas’ research made it clear that heroin is quickly becoming more common in suburban environments such as Cudahy.

“Heroin is not just as inner city issue; it’s going into the suburbs because dealers can make more money there,” she said.

Janas worked to create a heroin awareness campaign designed to be shared via social media. She created a series of updates for the Facebook and Twitter pages of the city of Cudahy to share essential information. She also created a resource page that included phone numbers and addresses to treatment/detoxification facilities, free HIV testing, clean needle exchanges, and support groups.

She offered a presentation and roundtable discussion regarding her research to Cudahy officials, including three public health nurses, the police chief and a City Hall representative. She also created a display board for the city of Cudahy that will be making stops through the community, including City Hall, the Cudahy Police Department and the Cudahy Public Library. 

Heroin Poster Presentation 2

“Molly's presentation on heroin was excellent,” said Roberta Manley, adjunct faculty member and Janas’ clinical instructor.  “The roundtable discussion that followed lasted for about an hour and generated lots of questions. It really raised awareness. I was told that the health department has never had a student develop such an in-depth project.”

Janas’ efforts at heroin education and prevention are part a growing trend. Last fall, the Wisconsin Department of Justice launched a new campaign called “The Fly Effect” to raise awareness of the dangers associated with heroin use. This campaign, which includes television and radio ads, posters, and other techniques, illustrate how the decision to take a single hit can spiral out of control.

Janas is proud that her research was so timely and well-received, and that it has the potential to save lives.

“I believe I did something meaningful,” she said. “My project is a foundation and will be built up to higher potential. By using social media, I believe it will make more of a difference.”