FAIRMONT - Last fall, Fairmont police and the Martin County Sheriff's Office set up a "Take It To the Box" program, which allows for the safe disposal of medications.
A sharp rise in prescription pill abuse has compounded the problem of what to do with unused or expired medications. Simply throwing them in the trash or flushing them down the toilet creates environmental hazards.
Through "Take It To the Box," medications are deposited in a large locked drop box, and they are taken to a facility in St. Louis, where they can be properly and safely destroyed.
When the plan was originally implemented, the two departments were to split the cost of hiring a company to sort the narcotics from the non-narcotics and then transport them out. But a program from the federal Drug Enforcement Administration has helped.
"It was going to be an ongoing cost," said Fairmont school resource officer Jaime Bleess. "But the DEA started the National Take Back Day, where they are the ones willing to do the take back for no charge. Last spring, they had a take back day, and we went to a drop site in Kossuth County, Iowa, and we took two and a half 55-gallon barrels worth of medications back."
Now a second National Take Back Day is scheduled for Oct. 29. Officials are encouraging anyone who has been planning to clean out the medicine cabinet to do so within the month.
"We're expecting the same amount as last time, but it's something to go with three or four 55-gallon barrels full of medications, and be able to safely dispose of them for free," Bleess said. "It's pretty helpful to public safety and the community. Just having this dropoff once a year is good, but twice a year helps us a lot cost-wise ... It's as close to free as you can imagine. It's neat to see a government program working like it's meant to."
While everything from old prescriptions to cough medicines can be put in the box, the focus is getting prescriptions off the street.
"Unused meds, if they're just left sitting, especially if it's a year or two, you forget what you have, and you don't notice if it's missing," Bleess said. "This is a good reminder to clean out those medicine cabinets."