St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office and St. Mary’s County Department of Aging & Human Services Partner to Offer Medication Collection for the Homebound During
National Take-Back Day
Each year, communities across the country offer to collect residents' unused medications as part of the National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day Initiative, sponsored by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Three years ago, the St. Mary's County Sheriff’s Office, in partnership with the Department of Aging & Human Services, started a door-to-door medication collection for homebound residents.
The Sheriff’s Office and the Department of Aging & Human Services had recognized that, while many residents are able to take advantage of the convenient 24/7 medication drop boxes situated in the Sheriff’s Office lobby, there is a segment of county residents unable to access this service: the homebound. Persons who are homebound due to age or mobility issues, do not always have the proper means to dispose of their unused medications, creating a situation that can make them vulnerable criminal targets.
According to the DEA Office of Diversion Control, 73% of teens indicate that it is easy to get prescription drugs from their parents' medicine cabinets. In addition, up to 38% of teens who have misused or abused a prescription drug obtained it at home.
The collection of medications, both through the homebound pick-up and convenient drop boxes, benefits public safety by decreasing the supply of controlled dangerous substances available for misuse, abuse, diversion, and accidental ingestion. The disposal methods used by the Sheriff's Office also protect the environment from potentially harmful contaminants by providing a proper, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved, means of disposal.
During the National Take-Back Initiative, held April 30, 2016, members of the Sheriff’s Office Special Operations Division, including Corporal W. Daniel Ray of the Lexington Park COPs Unit, assisted in collecting a total of 8,111 pills from homebound residents. Leonardtown Community Policing Officer, Peggy Smolarsky, and Captain Daniel Alioto, also set up a table at the Cedar Lane Senior Living Community in Leonardtown, for residents who wished to dispose of their unused medications in a safe environment. Sheriff's deputies stationed at Cedar Lane distributed additional information about the take-back initiative and were available to answer questions.
“The St. Mary's County Sheriff’s Office remains committed to progressively combating pharmaceutical diversion within our community; this is one more event which highlights our efforts and partnerships,” says Captain Daniel Alioto. “It’s proven that heroin addiction begins with the abuse of opioid medications. A preemptive collection of these medications is a logical strategy, which has a significant impact as the first step to curbing opioid addiction. I speak on behalf of the entire Sheriff’s Office when I say we are thankful for our agency's relationships with our partners, including the Department of Aging & Human Services and the community. This type of collaboration not only prevents medications from falling into the wrong hands, but it further serves to protect our elderly citizens from becoming targets of crime.”
The take-back initiative is a coordinated effort across St. Mary’s County. It includes education about proper use and storage of medication; prescription drug monitoring programs; proper disposal of medication; and enforcement against offenders. In 2016, thus far, 105,774 pills have been collected. This brings the total medications collected during the life of the program to 854,420.
According to Lori Jennings-Harris, Director, Department of Aging & Human Services, “Recognizing a need to assist our county’s older adults, the collaboration between the Sheriff’s Office and the Department of Aging & Human Services in this effort is an important one. Keeping our older citizens aware of and safe from the dangers of maintaining an unused and unwanted medication in their homes benefits the community in multiple ways, including reducing the availability of unused medications to our youth.”
Sheriff Cameron expresses his gratitude to citizens for recognizing the importance of properly disposing of unused medications and thanks residents for their exceptional participation in the initiative.
Corporal W. Daniel Ray, of the Lexington Park COPs Unit; Vice/Narcotics Support Team, collects unwanted medication from a homebound resident at Victory Woods Senior Apartments in Lexington Park, as part of National Take-Back Day.