By John Anderson
The disposal of old or unused prescription drugs has been an issue for a long time. About twenty years ago, the common remedy was to flush them down the toilet, but that led to never before seen levels of prescription drugs in our rivers since treating wastewater does not remove drugs. The environmental impact from improper disposal is still not known, but it can’t be good.
The Auburn Board of Health has long sought a long-term solution to this problem, but the cost was beyond their budget. Last fall, the Auburn Chamber of Commerce stepped in and offered a $1,000 grant to fund the purchase of a MedReturn Collection Unit. The Police Department offered their lobby for a convenient collection location, and Wheelabrator Technologies, Inc. in Millbury offered to safely dispose of the drugs.
The MedReturn box was installed at the police station last December, and last week it was emptied for the first time. The Board of Health monitors the contents and notifies Wheelabrator when a pickup is needed. With increasing awareness, pickups should be more frequent. The drugs are taken directly to Millbury where they are safely incinerated.
Prescription drug take back programs have been held in many communities, but the presence of the MedReturn Box makes these events obsolete. There is no restriction or monitoring of who drops off drugs. They can be in original containers or put in plastic bags. Drugs can even be mixed together. They’re just going to get burned.
Getting unneeded medications out of the home has nothings but positive results. Public Health Director Darlene Coyle says, “The benefits are endless and include a free, convenient, safe and legal way to dispose of unused/expired prescription drugs from the home. By removing the drugs from your home, you reduce the exposure of family members/youths to problems with potentially addictive drugs and accidental overdoses.”
The police station lobby is the perfect location for the MedReturn box. The building is staffed 24/7 by public safety professionals and the area is video monitored. The box itself is bolted to the floor and is double padlocked.
On Monday, members of the Auburn Chamber of Commerce and the Board of Health gathered in the station lobby with Director Coyle and Police Chief Andrew Sluckis to recognize the success of the program. The MedReturn program is another example of a public/private partnership in Auburn that benefits the residents. Hats off to all involved.