Washington County Fights Drug Abuse With Take Back Program

STILLWATER, Minn. (WCCO) — Walking into the Washington County Sheriff’s Office with a bag of drugs sounds like a bad idea. But if they’re the kind found in your medicine cabinet and aren’t being used, step right in.

“It’s one way for us to make a difference within the community is to get that pain medication off of the streets,” said Chief Deputy Dan Starry.

Just about every day, investigators said someone will stop by the Law Enforcement Center and fill their drop box with prescription and over the counter medicines. The pill bottles and boxes seem small, but they add up.

“It’s a staggering amount,” he said.

washington co medication disposal box Washington County Fights Drug Abuse With Take Back Program

(credit: CBS)

In the basement of the facility behind locked doors, several cardboard barrels are stacked up. Investigators estimate they weigh about 80 pounds each, all of them filled with drugs dropped off at one of the three drop boxes in the county. Since January, they’ve filled about two dozen barrels.

Chief Deputy Starry said in the program’s five years they’ve totaled 11 tons, some of which are narcotics.

“We’re not surprised by it and if we can get more off the streets it’s better off,” he said.

The opioid crisis spans far past Washington County and came to the forefront when iconic musician Prince died from an overdose of painkillers last year.

“We’re sick and tired of seeing the overdose deaths or the potential overdose deaths as well and so we had to do something,” he said.

The drop off bins are one aspect. But on Saturday, April 29 the county will host a Drug Take Back Event in conjunction with the Washington Co. Department of Public Health.

“If we didn’t collect it, that medication would still be out there for potentially people to abuse,” he said.

People who participate in the drug drop off are kept anonymous. Investigators don’t read the prescription labels on the drugs nor do they check to see what type of drugs were dropped off. Once they’ve collected enough barrels, they’re taken to a waste management plant in Alexandria and incinerated.

The drug take back event runs from 9 a.m. to noon at the Mahtomedi School District Education Center in Mahtomedi. Pills, capsules, creams, gels, unused Epipens, inhalers, patches, IV bags, vials, liquids, powders, and sprays will be accepted. Needles, used Epipens, syringes, lancets, thermometers, and chemotherapy drugs are prohibited.

Besides at the Law Enforcement Center, drugs can be dropped off in the county at Washington County Service Center in Cottage Grove and the Headwaters Service Center in Forest Lake.

More from Jeff Wagner
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