The Chenango Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition has been working for three years to get old prescriptions out of residents’ medicine and kitchen cabinets and properly disposed of.
The coalition was formed shortly after the Chenango County Health Department saw a spike in cases of hepatitis C, an infection linked to heroin and intravenous drug use, in 2014.
Agencies throughout the county were called together to discuss what actions to take, said Theresa Davis, executive director of Chenango Health Network.
The group determined there was a need for medication take-back programs and secured a grant to hold events until the end of 2017.
“We’ve done one event per month at different locations, and we’ve tried to hit some of the rural areas,” Davis said. “They are for anyone who has prescription medications to return and doesn’t know where to take them.”
The Norwich YMCA collected old medications Sept. 28 during a flu shot clinic, and residents in the Norwich area can drop off prescriptions any time in a box at the sheriff’s office. The county has two other drug take-back boxes, and Sheriff Ernest Cutting Jr. is working on increasing that number to six for 2018, according to Darlene Gramstad, director of nursing at the department of public health.
Getting rid of easy access to drugs in people’s cabinets is part of preventing opioid and other substance abuse, Gramstad said, “But we are also taking back non-narcotics, and it’s a two-way street to protect drinking water too.”
The number of cases of hepatitis C in Chenango county has plateaued, according to Gramstad. There are about 10 fewer cases to date this year than in 2014.
The cost of incinerating drugs and officers’ time to transport them nearly shelved plans to install two drop-off boxes in Schoharie county in 2014, until David Desando, pharmacy director at Cobleskil Regional Hospital, took finding the initial funding into his own hands.
“It’s really something we need in Schoharie County, and it’s a tremendous benefit to the community,” he told the Times-Journal at the time.
The boxes are lin the lobby of the Cobleskill Police Department at 378 Mineral Springs Road, and in the second floor lobby of the Schoharie County Sheriff’s Office at 157 Depot Lane in Schoharie.
Liquid medications aren’t generally accepted at take-back events or boxes, but the Chenango coalition gives out flyers with information on safe drug disposal. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration suggests that if there are no instructions for disposal on a drug label and no take-back programs in the area, drugs should be thrown in the household trash, but first taken out of their original containers and mixed with an undesirable substance like used coffee grounds or cat litter.
Researchers have identified traces of pharmaceutical drugs in the drinking water supplies of some 40 million Americans and, according to the Citizens Campaign for the Environment, the effects of this constant, low-level exposure are uncertain, though “possible health concerns include hormone disruption, antibiotic resistance and synergistic effects.” Antidepressants have been shown to alter the behavior and reproductive functions of fish and mollusks.
The 14th national drug take-back day, organized by the Drug Enforcement Administration, will be held on from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Oct. 28. A list of all participating sites is available on the DEA website.
National collection days are organized twice a year, in April and October. Chenango County disposed of about 150 pounds of drugs in April, Davis said.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation supervised pharmaceutical and medication take-back on household hazardous waste collection days in Otsego County Sept. 8 and 9, when an estimated 160 pounds of drugs were collected and transported by the sheriff’s department to Oswego County for incineration.
There are drug take-back boxes in Oneonta at the state police station at 199 Oneida Street and in Cooperstown at the Otsego County sheriff’s office at 172 County Highway 33.
Delaware county residents can drop off medications at boxes in the sheriff’s office at 280 Phoebe Lane in Delhi, the state police barrackst at 823 State Route 7 in Sidney, and the village of Deposit Police Department at 146 Front Street.