Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Sheriff’s Office: We want your drugs

Organizations start prescription ‘take-back’ program


Local law enforcement and several other community organizations are uniting to promote a new message: Turn in your drugs.

Prescription drugs, that is. The organizations are developing a drug take-back program through which county residents can anonymously leave unused prescription medication at drop-off locations countywide. Organizations involved are the Blaine County Sheriff's Office, the Environmental Resource Center, the Blaine County Community Drug Coalition, St. Luke's Wood River Medical Center and St. Luke's Wood River Foundation.

Terry Basolo, executive director of the Drug Coalition, said the goal is to implement the program by the second National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day on April 30.

"It's important to get drugs out of the medicine cabinet," said Sheriff Gene Ramsey during a county meeting on Monday.

But the problem arises when residents don't know how to dispose of expired or leftover drugs and end up flushing them.

"We don't want people dumping these things down the toilet," said County Commissioner Larry Schoen. "They have real environmental effects. It's a water-quality issue."

"The wastewater treatment plants have no way of pulling these substances out of the water stream," said Craig Barry, board member of the nonprofit Environmental Resource Center.

Prescription drugs that are flushed stay in the water supply even after the water is treated.

"They're going to end up in the river," Schoen said. "That can't be good."

Basolo said the only way to properly dispose of expired and leftover medication is to incinerate it, which naturally poses some "challenges." Still, he said, it's important to come up with a disposal program.

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"Young people have the ability to get prescription drugs from cabinets," he said. "That just feeds our concerns about youth substance abuse."

The medication brought to the drug take-back program will be collected by the Sheriff's Office, which Barry said would pass the drugs on to the Idaho State Police. The police will then escort the medication to an incinerator in Utah that has agreed to dispose of the prescriptions.

Basolo said the final locations for drop-off bins have not been set, though Barry said likely locations would include the police stations and St. Luke's Wood River Medical Center. Ramsey said during Monday's meeting that he feels it's important to have at least one disposal location that isn't a law enforcement office.

"We realize not everyone wants to walk into the Sheriff's Office and drop off drugs," he said.

The locations will accept all drugs in pill form, including narcotics, but cannot accept syringes or liquids such as cough syrup.

Basolo said the medications would be placed in clear plastic bags and disposed of in secure, locked plastic bins. St. Luke's Wood River Foundation provided the program with a $3,000 grant to fund the bins' purchase and the program's implementation. Barry said the program is based on a similar one in Ada County.

Both Barry and Basolo emphasized the anonymous nature of the program.

"As long as [the drugs] fit the requirements, I don't think we're going to ask any questions," Basolo said.

He added that the bins and detailed information about drop-off locations should begin to appear within the next few weeks.

Katherine Wutz: kwutz@mtexpress.com




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