Meadville Tribune

Local News

December 23, 2013

Popular drug collection drop boxes a safe way to dispose of medications

MEADVILLE — Encountering a cabinet or drawer full of unwanted or expired medications can be problem — one Crawford County Sheriff Nick Hoke experienced firsthand after his father passed away.

“There were three shelves full (of medication) — nobody knew what to do with them,” Hoke said of the prescription medications his family found after the elder Hoke died.

It was situations like Hoke’s and thousands of others across the country that lead the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency to start National Prescription Drug Take-Back Days a few years ago. Held twice a year, people dispose of unwanted, unused or expired prescriptions and over-the-counter medications free of charge for safe destruction by law enforcement officers.

It’s proved to be so popular, Pennsylvania has started its own program, Pennsylvania MedReturn, offering the public a safe, accessible way to get rid of drugs, according to Francis Schultz, Crawford County’s district attorney.

As part of the state program, the Crawford County Sheriff’s Office, Conneaut Lake Regional police, Linesville police and West Mead Township police each have agreed to oversee secured collection boxes in order for county residents to have the opportunity to get rid of unused or expired medications anonymously.

“The DEA disposal program was well received,” Hoke said of that twice-a-year program. “Since it started several years ago, my office would get calls every couple weeks with people asking ‘When are you going to do another drug collection program?’”

Modeled after the DEA program, Crawford County was awarded the boxes at no cost through a grant program from the Pennsylvania District Attorneys’ Association, the Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs and the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency as part of Gov. Tom Corbett’s Healthy Pennsylvania initiative.

The program takes both prescription and non-prescription medications.

“People want a place to drop off the drugs they no longer want or need,” Schultz said. “We don’t want people to flush them down a toilet, bury them or throw them away or be where kids get hold of them.”

The biggest abused drugs right now are prescription medications that are accessible to children, according to local law enforcers.

“It’s a gateway to heroin,” Chief Todd Pfeifer of the Conneaut Lake Regional Police Department said of abuse of prescription medications by children.

“We’ve got a lot of elderly in our community and families can end up with a lot of unused medications they didn’t know was in the home,” said Chief Robert Johnston of the Linesville Police Department. “The DEA drug program is only twice a year and they want to dispose of the drugs.”

Sgt. Mike Broderick of the West Mead police, who has helped coordinate the DEA effort with his department, agrees.

“We have more elderly residents who take medications,” Broderick said. “People would end up with piles of drugs when a loved one died and not know how to get rid of them.”

Each of the departments has the heavy metal locked boxes within a secured area at their respective buildings.

At the Crawford County Courthouse, the bin is in the lobby, adjacent to the entrance metal detector that is staffed by deputies during courthouse hours. The other boxes are located at the respective departments.

“We’re not allowed to keep track of who is bringing them in,” Schultz said of who may dispose of drugs.

However, under the program, quarterly reports on the amount of drugs collected are to be filed with the state by the Crawford County District Attorney’s Office.

The drugs collected locally will be sent away for incineration, Schultz said.

“I just want to commend each police department and the sheriff for being willing to undertake this,” Schultz said. “It’s some extra work for them with the paperwork, but it’s good program.”

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