Operation Rx Disposal: Drug take-back event set for Saturday across region

Becky Campbell • Apr 24, 2019 at 11:42 AM

Saturday will mark the 10th year for an event designed to get drugs out of medicine cabinets and into authorities’ hands for destruction.

Operation Rx Disposal, commonly referred to as a Drug Take Back event, started in Johnson City in 2009, when the first one was held at the old Senior Citizen Center on Watauga Avenue.

That center is long gone, but the event is not — it’s now held in the parking lot of the Johnson City Police Department.

Saturday’s event will be held at numerous locations in the Tri-Cities from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.

Jennifer Berven, director of Insight Alliance — a substance abuse prevention coalition that sponsors the prescription and over-the-counter medication collection in Johnson City — said the event began after an East Tennessee State University medical school physician began researching similar programs in other regions and helped develop efforts in Johnson City to get the program started.

“There were some problems with opioids at that time, but when we started it, our concern was abuse of over-the-counter medications.” Berven said. “The exciting thing is it was 10 years ago this month that we did the first take-back event in Johnson City. It’s amazing to see how it’s grown not only regionally and across the state, but also across the country.”

Berven said it was about two years before federal authorities in the DEA got involved.

At the collection sites, some information is gathered from people who drop off medications, but only for statistical purposes, Berven said.

“Some of the highlights from that while quantity-wise, 10% to 12% of the items are controlled substance, but of all the people who come, usually 50% to 70% of the people bring at least one item that is a controlled substance,” she said. “I think that’s a good sign that people are aware of the importance of not keeping controlled substances in their home. It’s been a great platform for education about protecting medications and locking them up.”

Berven said that getting unused or unneeded medications out of home medicine cabinets eliminates three big risks:

• accidental diversion by the medications getting into hands of young person or relative who may be abusing them;

• preventing an accidental overdose, because when medications are prescribed, they’re prescribed for your health situation at that moment;

• environmental contamination, because if the medications are flushed down the toilet, that will eventually contaminate groundwater and drinking water because wells and public water systems are not designed to filter out those toxins.

Berven said medications don’t need to be removed from the bottles nor do labels need to be removed because the entire bottle, along with the medication inside, is incinerated.

If anyone can’t take medications to the event Saturday, there are permanent locked drop boxes available at several law enforcement departments, including Johnson City Police and the Washington County Sheriff’s Office.

Berven said the medication dispoal sites can’t accept needles, but those can be disposed of at household hazardous material drop-off locations. One of those is also scheduled for Saturday in Washington County at Daniel Boone High School from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. 

Tri-Cities sponsors and locations:

Washington County:

• Johnson City Police Department, 601 E. Main Street, parking lot;

• Jonesborough Department Of Public Safety, at the Jonesborough Fire Department, 123 Boone St, Jonesborough; and

• Gray Community Center, 113 Gray Ruritan Drive, Gray,

Carter County

• Elizabethton Police Department, 525 E. F St, Elizabethton; and

• Carter County Sheriff’s Department, in drop box located in lobby of the Detention Center, 900 3rd St, Elizabethton.

Johnson County

• Johnson County Sheriff’s Office at the Butler Fire Department, 291 Piercetown Road, Butler; and

• Mountain City Police Department, Church Street.

Unicoi County

• Erwin Town Hall, Erwin.

Sullivan County

• Kingsport Police Department at Dobyns-Bennett High School. 1 Tribe Way, Kingsport; and

• Bristol, Tenn. Police Department, municipal parking lot. 801 Anderson St, Bristol.

Hawkins County

• Church Hill Police Department, at Food City Pharmacy; 731 Hwy 11 W, Church Hill; and

• Food City, 128 E. Main St., Rogersville.

Greene County

• Greene Police Department, North College Street, Greeneville;

• Medicine Shoppe, Mosheim; and

• Tusculum Police Department, at Tusculum City Hall. 145 Alexander St, Tusculum.


• Bristol, Virginia, Sheriff’s Office, near front entrance of Food City, 1320 Euclid Ave, Bristol, Va.;

• Weber City Police Department, near front entrance of Food City; Frank B. Smith Dr, Weber City, Va.; and

• Scott County Sheriff’s Office, near main entrance, 336 Water St, Gate City, Va.

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