Drug Education Campaign Targets Real Estate Professionals

Goal is to reduce prescription drug thefts during open houses

An unlikely partnership of two nonprofits and an escrow company is educating local real estate professionals about the need for clients to remove prescription drugs from their homes before opening them up to prospective buyers.

North Inland Community Prevention Program (NICPP), the Hope Foundation and Oakwood Escrow kicked off the educational campaign last week when they distributed 200 zippered, plastic pouches at pre-caravan meetings for Poway and Rancho Bernardo Realtors and representatives of real estate-related businesses.

Recipients were asked to give the pouches to clients so they can easily take along their prescription medications when leaving home before an open house.

H.O.P.E. Foundation Founder-Director Sherrie Rubin grabbed audience members' attention when she told them her son Aaron overdosed on the powerful prescription painkiller Oxycontin in 2005.

Now 29, Aaron is paralyzed, unable to speak and dependent on his parents for day-to-day care.

NICPP Program Manager Celeste Young said prescription drug abusers have reported that they sometimes steal the drugs from strangers' medicine cabinets during open houses. The thieves then use or sell the drugs, she said.

Removing medications prior to an open house reduces the opportunities for such thefts. The move also saves home sellers the time and expense of replacing prescription drugs and ensures they are available when the person to whom they were prescribed needs them.

Many of those who received the zippered pouches seemed stunned to learn drug thefts could occur during an open house.

"I am dumbfounded and frightened that this happens," said Bill Mortimer, a home inspector with San Diego-based HouseMasters. "I don't think in terms of drug addicts being sophisticated and mobile enough to go into a house and do something like this."

Realtor Lori Shannon, who also owns San Diego Legal and Real Estate Services, said she and her colleagues always remind clients to take jewelry and other valuables with them before an open house.

"But it never occurred to us to think about drugs," Shannon said.

The zippered pouches contained a list of sites where leftover medications can be turned in during regular business hours. The sites include all San Diego County Sheriff's substations and the San Diego Police stations at 12592 El Camino Real and 7222 Skyline Drive in San Diego.

An independent, full-service escrow company, Oakwood can be reached at (858) 217-5264. Information about the nonprofit H.O.P.E.

NICPP is a county-funded provider of alcohol and drug abuse prevention services. Call (858) 391-9303 for information about participating in the educational campaign.


About Mental Health Systems
Mental Health Systems, Inc. is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving lives in the communities they serve through mental health and substance abuse programs that provide prevention, education, treatment, and recovery services. The agency operates more than 85 programs in 70 geographic locations in California.

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