Prescription drug disposal site opens at Chester Town Hall

 

By Cynthia Prairie

The Chester Police Department is participating in a nationwide effort to collect unused prescription drugs to keep them out of public water systems as well as keeping them out of the hands of children and others who might abuse them. In the long run, the goal is to deter crime.

Chester Police Chief Rick Cloud shows off the new MedReturn drug drop-off box at Town Hall.

Chester Police Chief Rick Cloud shows off the new MedReturn drug drop-off box at Town Hall.

A secure metal MedReturn box has been bolted to the floor of the first-floor hallway across from Police Department offices at Chester Town Hall, 556 Elm St., to accept anyone’s unneeded or out-of-date prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications whenever Town Hall is open, usually 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

While Chester is new to the program, the MedReturn boxes have been cropping up in other jurisdictions for a while, said Melanie Sheehan, director of community outreach at Mt. Ascutney Hospital. She added that a Partnership for Success state grant for Windsor County helped pay for the collection boxes – which run from $700 to $1,000 each. Besides Chester, boxes are also located in the Windsor County towns of Rochester, Woodstock, Windsor, Springfield and Ludlow.

Since the late 1990s, scientists have recognized the fact that drugs find their way into rivers and streams as well as the ground water used for public water supplies, when people flush medicines or wash them down the drain.  “Environmentally,” Sheehan said, “it is a reason, but the main reason is the rise in prescription drug abuse.”  The grant aims to help reduce drinking and drug abuse and misuse among children ages 12 to 25 in Windsor County, where such substance abuse mirrors overall state levels.

According to a 2011 survey, alcohol use within 30 days of the survey among 9th to 12th graders was reported at 35 percent for both Windsor County and Vermont and binge drinking was at 19 percent (Windsor County) and 21 percent (Vermont). Prescription drug abuse during the respondents’ lifetime was 16 percent (Windsor) and 14 percent (Vermont).

  • The types of drugs that can be collected include: prescriptions medications, patches and ointments as well as over-the-counter medications, vitamins and samples and pet medications.
  • Not accepted are thermometers, inhalers, needles (sharps), aerosol cans, hydrogen peroxide and other liquids and medications from businesses or clinics.

Chester Police Chief Rick Cloud said that, nationwide, these programs team up with law enforcement to provide a secure location for drug dropoff.  As for prescription-drug related crime in the Chester area, Cloud said, “In the last two years, it has really started to increase. It’s been a steady increase,” including break-ins to homes and apartments to steal the drugs. He indicated that senior citizens can be more at risk to be victims.

“We just want to get (these drugs) off the street,” he added.

Sheehan said that when the state last emptied all the collection bins, it brought in 228 pounds of medications from Windsor County alone and 3,429 pounds statewide. The drugs are disposed of by incineration.

She expects to collect 150 pounds of drugs annually from each location. “We’re really trying to shift the public perception (to the fact that) the drug should come from your (medical) provider. … We’re also trying to teach folks about proper disposal.”

She added that no one should be concerned about privacy since the disposed-of drugs go into a bag that is incinerated with other bags en masse. “We aren’t tracking or doing research,” she said. But, she added, if you are concerned, use a Magic Marker on the label.

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About the Author: Cynthia Prairie has been a newspaper editor for 30 years, having worked at such publications as the Raleigh Times, the Baltimore News American, the Buffalo Courier Express, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Patuxent Publishing chain of community newspapers in Maryland. She and her family moved to Chester, Vermont in 2004.

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