Police’s popular drug drop-off program prompts need for bigger box

Becky Campbell • Apr 24, 2013 at 9:17 PM

A drug drop-off box installed two years ago at the Johnson City Police Department for unwanted medications has been so successful that department will replace it with a bigger one.

“About two years ago we started the drug take-back event and saw a need,” for the box, said JCPD Officer Allan Rutledge.

“We thought it would be good to have that year round so people could directly put (medications) in the box.”

The secure steel drop-off box, which looks much like a mail receptacle, contains a large square crate that catches the medications. Rutledge said so many items were being deposited that someone had to empty it at least once a week.

“The box has been filled up every week. It’s been at least once a week, if not more. We take in hundreds and hundreds of medications,” Rutledge said. “That’s how popular it’s been (and) that’s why the need for the bigger box.”

The new box is taller and the collection container is similar to a kitchen trash can. It’s at the department, but hasn’t been installed yet.

Rutledge said dropping off medications is anonymous and participants don’t have to tell anyone they’ve made a deposit. But for security purposes, to ensure the box isn’t tampered with, it is under video surveillance.

“They don’t have to speak to anyone,” Rutledge said.

He said the anonymous drop-off has a three-fold benefit — keeping the medications from ending up on the street, preventing anyone from mistakenly taking old medication and keeping those drugs out of the city’s landfill or wastewater treatment system.

“From the crime standpoint, it reduces the chance of medications being stolen and being sold on the street. From the health standpoint, it prevents anyone from mistakenly taking old medications. And from the environmental standpoint it eliminates the need for people to take these medications and put them in the trash or flush them,” he said.

Most wastewater treatment plants don’t have the necessary filtration to separate the medications or the chemicals in them, Rutledge said.

The police department participates in a national drug take-back event each spring. This year it’s scheduled for Saturday, 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. at the Johnson City Police Department and the Jonesborough Fire Department.

The take-back event is sponsored by Insight Alliance, a non-profit drug prevention organization for Washington County.

There will also be pharmacy professional at the sites to answer any questions about current medications.

For more information about the event, contact Insight Alliance at 877-366-7593 or visit the website at www.insightalliance.org.

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