Mobile pill drop-off program gets drugs into safe hands

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Remi Monaghan

For many Ingham County citizens, getting rid of old prescriptions, specifically narcotics, is confusing. Do you flush them down the toilet? Throw them out? The right answer is neither. And Ingham County Sheriff Scott Wriggelsworth and his deputies are working to properly dispose of drugs with the new “Ingham County Mobile pill” drop off.

It is an initiative started by the sheriff himself in hopes of getting pills into safe hands where they will be disposed properly without entering the ecosystem. Officers were at several county high school football games this fall to collect unwanted pills. When asked why he picked football games, Wriggelsworth said “Most people don’t have any reason to come down to the sheriff’s office to drop them (the pills) off. It’s the perfect location.”

Local high schools including  Holt, Webberville, Leslie, Lansing Eastern and Lansing Sexton were all part of this year’s program. Webberville High School Principal Andrew Scott said “As a school district, we support doing what is best for our community and our students. We implemented the drop-off program at a home football game at the front entrance gate and we feel that it was a success.”

Wriggelsworth said the schools showed  “decent participation and willingness to help.” However it seemed to him as though many people were too worried about getting to the games, and forgot the bottles at home. Schools were picked to reach different areas of the county and did not focus on reducing teen opioid use in those areas but the use of them in general.

The department is now looking to partner with local Ingham County businesses with large cafeterias. “We hopefully would come in with a squad car during prime lunch hours to pick up the unwanted pills” says Wriggelsworth. There are no set dates or time of these upcoming drop offs but they are expected to take place within the next month or two.

In Ingham County there have been just under 30 overdose deaths this year. Wriggelsworth says that death numbers are beginning to decrease due to an overdose reversal drug called NARCAN. Also known as Naloxone, it blocks the effects of opioids. It can be given intravenously or through a muscle and works within two to five minutes. Although this “good drug” as it is sometimes called is helping save lives, overdoses continue to rise in mid-Michigan.

Want to get rid of your extra pills before the next event? There is also the Capital Area “Take Back Meds” program. This program also has linked law enforcement, government agencies as well as local pharmacies to properly take unwanted drugs out of homes. Its website includes an interactive map where you are able to type in a ZIP code or select from a list of Mid-Michigan cities to find out where the closest dropoff location is to you.

According to the Take Back Meds program, 20  to 60 percent of prescription medications, not just opioids, go unused and eventually get disposed of. A large portion of those unused pills go into our solid waste or sewer system which is not made to process pills like this. If they end up in a landfill, they can seep into the ground and end up in the area’s water table.