BY HEATHER TOMLINSON, CJ Staff Writer Commonwealth Journal
A concerted effort on the part of county agencies has led to several drop-box locations where drugs — over-the-counter and prescription — can be thrown away without worry of them falling into the wrong hands.
“This new program provides our residents with safe locations to dispose of their old medications,” said Brad Wilson, coordinator for the Pulaski County KY-ASAP (Agency for Substance Abuse Policy) Board. “It prevents these medications from getting into the hands of those who would abuse them, and it puts these medications in the hands of law enforcement so that they can be destroyed in a safe and proper manner.”
The “prescription drug take-back program” was created through the Pulaski County KY-ASAP Board by partnering with the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Department, the Pulaski County 911 Center, and the South Kentucky RECC People Fund.
The program has established permanent prescription drug drop-off locations at the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Department and the Pulaski County 911 Center — and most recently, at the Somerset Mall near the Somerset Police Department substation. That drop box was established thanks to coordination from the Pulaski County KY-ASAP Board, SPD and the Pulaski County UNITE Coalition.
People can drop off any unused, unwanted, or expired medications at each location 24 hours per day, 7 days per week (except after business hours at the mall drop-off point).
Discarded medications should be in a pill bottle or in a sealed Ziploc-style bag, Wilson said. The Pulaski County Sheriff’s Department empties each container on a daily basis, and each drop box is monitored through video surveillance to ensure the safety of citizens when dropping off medications.
Syringes and liquid drugs are not being accepted right now, although Wilson said they’re working on ways to make that a possibility.
If you do need to dispose of liquid drugs, Wilson said the FDA recommends mixing kitty litter or coffee grounds with the liquid and placing it in the trash inside a sealed plastic bag.
All medications collected are destroyed by the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Department through their incinerator known as the Drug Terminator.
The drop-off boxes were purchased through funding received from the South Kentucky RECC People Fund.
The drop boxes provide a safe way for people to get rid of their medicines — and they help people keep their medicine cabinets clear or unused and expired medications.
“When we reviewed the available research, we discovered that many people, primarily youth, first abuse prescription drugs by obtaining the medications from the medicine cabinet,” Wilson said. “We also found that many people were unsure of how to dispose of medications, so they just kept these medications in the medicine cabinet.”
Wilson said the medicine cabinet can be a target for thieves, and he said they’ve even heard of incidences of people breaking into homes of the recently deceased just to get access to the medicine cabinet.
“These drop boxes can absolutely help with individuals wanting to clean out medicine cabinets,” Wilson said. “We encourage people to clean out their medicine cabinets and use these drop boxes to dispose of the medicine, whether prescription or over-the-counter.”
Proper medication disposal has proven a difficult thing. Flushing drugs can pollute water supplies and throwing them in the trash can create an easy target for those looking for drug, and it can even create a serious risk for pets and wildlife. Also, due to DEA regulations, pharmacists are not allowed to take back controlled substances once they are dispensed, according to Wilson.
“By partnering with Sheriff Todd Wood, 911 Director Lisa Gilbert, and the South Kentucky RECC People Fund we were able to put our plan into motion very quickly,” Wilson added. “We were able to put the drop-off receptacles into place in May of 2012.”
Wilson said the program, which has been in operation for several months now, has already garnered much public interest and support.
“One of the biggest concerns presented to us came from hospice agencies,” Wilson said. “They expressed their concern about families who had recently lost loved ones that were taking several medications.
“These families did not have appropriate and safe ways of disposing of these medications,” Wilson said.
Now, those families can dispose of their loved ones’ medications properly.
“With the Pulaski KY-ASAP office now located at the Pulaski County Courthouse, I have witnessed many people using the drop-off container at the (sheriff’s department),” Wilson said.
Wilson said the Pulaski KY-ASAP Board anticipates future medicine drop-off locations to be added over the next several months.