GUEST VIEW: Clean out those medicine cabinets

By Daily News • Last Updated 11:04 am on Wednesday, December 26, 2012

By Mary K. Thomas

 The Medication Disposal Coalition of Montcalm County (MDCMC) was formally created in January 2011 and recently joined Drug Free Montcalm (DFM).

In the past, the MDCMC coordinated Medication Drop-off Days with local law enforcement throughout our county. Due to Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) regulations, law enforcement had to obtain permission to accept legal controlled substances (which include narcotics) at the disposal events. In recent years, the DEA began to grant permission for medication drop-boxes to be placed in law enforcement agencies. Our local law enforcement encouraged the MDCMC to find a way to obtain these boxes, as they provide a much more convenient and accessible disposal method for the public.

Riverhaven Substance Abuse Coordinating Agency purchased medication drop-boxes for participating law enforcement agencies. A kick-off event was held at the Montcalm County Sheriff’s Office on Sept. 24. The community has responded with bringing more than 200 pounds of medication to the five drop-boxes in two months. How incredible is that?

To give you an idea of how successful this new program has been, I’ll share a couple of comparisons. In October 2011, we had our first and only countywide disposal event, which included four sites. A total of 400 pounds of medication was collected, not bad for a one-time event. During the past year, and up until the law enforcement medication drop-off boxes were installed, Sheridan Community Hospital Pharmacy collected 150 pounds of medication. Therefore, in two months, the law enforcement drop-off boxes have collected more than one site did in an entire year.

Greenville Public Safety Director Mike Pousak was correct when he stated, “The program seems to be making a positive impact on removing unwanted and expired medication from the home.”

Not only is this program valuable in collecting medications, it is also helping our community in two other ways. First, the bottles are being collected by the Montcalm County Resource Recovery for recycling. And second, the large empty prescription bottles are sent to Montcalm County Emergency Medical Services to be used for the Vial of Life program, which is a program that helps emergency responders access important health information.

The only problem identified has been improper disposal of sharps. Sharps include anything with a needle, insulin syringes and lancets. We hope to have a solution to this problem in the near future, and ask that no sharps be placed into the medication drop-boxes.

Problems with improper disposal or not disposing at all include:

• Improper disposal of medications can harm the environment by reaching our water supply.

• Keeping unused, unwanted or expired drugs in the home is a source for theft.

• Studies have shown teenage drug abuse often begins by taking prescription drugs from the medicine cabinets of family or friends.

• Accidental poisonings of children and pets.

The Carson City Police Department, Greenville Department of Public Safety, Howard City Police Department, Lakeview Police Department, Montcalm County Sheriff’s Office, DFM and MDCMC would like to thank community members for your support of this valuable program and positive feedback. Why not make it your New Year’s resolution to clean out those medicine cabinets?

Mary K. Thomas is the director of pharmacy at Sheridan Community Hospital and a member of MDCMC and DFM.

The opinions expressed in the Guest View do not necessarily represent the opinions of The Daily News.

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