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Drug take-back program continues to expand

Since April 2009, more than 2,000 pounds of unneeded prescription medication has been collected

by: JASON CHANEY/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Clinic Pharmacy hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony late last month to celebrate the installation of a new drug take-back box at their facility. Pictured left to right are Carly Rachocki, Brenda Comini,  James Young,  Michael Boyd,  Jim Hensley,  Sean Phophiyane, Joe Becker,  Daina Vitolins, and Bill Gowen.

During a recent prescription drug summit, Prineville Police Captain Michael Boyd offered a striking visual to illustrate the success of Crook County’s drug take-back program.
   Since the program began about three and a half years ago, people have returned enough unused or unwanted medication to completely cover two football fields, including the end zones. That equates to more than 2,000 pounds of medication, including about 9.7 million pills.
   “I think it has been a highly successful program,” said Prineville Police Chief Eric Bush. “This is precisely the type of thing we want to help facilitate for the community.”
   The program was launched in April 2009 and began with the Prineville Police Department installing a drop box just outside the front door of their facility.
   The decision came on the heels of a local increase in prescription medication abuse, particular among middle school-age children. Boyd said that one time an 11-year-old student at Crook County Middle School was rushed to the hospital because of an overdose.
   Local leaders hoped to curtail abuse by properly disposing of unneeded medications and limiting what drugs people could find. This included discouraging residents from flushing pills down the toilet or throwing them in the garbage, which could contaminate drinking water.
   “We needed a way for folks to drop off medications, no questions asked and no hassle,” Boyd explained.
   After collecting the medication, Prineville police ship all of the drugs to the Oregon State Police lab where they are safely incinerated. In 2012, Prineville police needed a trailer to haul all of the drugs away for destruction, Boyd said.
   Since it began, the program has expanded to a second drop box inside the Crook County Health Department and Mosaic Medical building, and a third one was installed late last month at Clinic Pharmacy.
   Bush said he was pleased with the universal acceptance and use of the program, and he was pleasantly surprised by how much medication people were willing to dispose of.
   “The response in Crook County has been great,” added Crook County District Attorney Daina Vitolins. “We have collected and have more collection sites than they do in Portland.
   So far, Vitolins knows of no data that directly demonstrates the effectiveness of the local program on prescription drug abuse. Nevertheless, she believes the program can only help eradicate the problem.
   As Bush noted, “That’s 2,200 pounds of potentially dangerous substances that are off of the street, out of people’s unsecured medicine cabinets, and most importantly, out of the potential reach of young children.”