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ST. MARYS — Joint Township District Memorial Hospital and the Auglaize County Sheriff’s Office are teaming up to provide area residents with a safe way to dispose of unused, expired and unwanted prescription drugs.
The two are hosting several drug take-back days for residents to get rid of unwanted prescription drugs with no questions asked. The partnership between Joint Township District Memorial Hospital and the Auglaize County Sheriff’s Office for community drug take-back days began last year, and through the drug take-back days, one 18-gallon tub of unwanted drugs was collected. This year, the events have brought in more than three 18-gallon tubs. Joint Township District Memorial Hospital CFO Jeff Vossler said the program is beneficial to the environment.
“The question always arises — where do these antibiotics go,” he said. “How is that entering our waterways and what is that doing to contaminate the environment. We all know that a lot of these drugs have a long half life — a long life before they decompose — and can morph themselves, when injected into other things, into things that aren’t good. I think we need to become better stewards of where this stuff is going and to protect the environment into the future.”
Joint Township District Memorial Hospital Pharmacy Director Brett Randolph noted the drug-take back days are a way to help keep the water source clean, as the prescription drugs permeate the underground water supply and may cause antibiotic resistant bacteria.
“It’s the contamination of the surface water and drinking water, it’s bacterial resistance to common antibiotics and the other thing is currently wastewater treatment facilities don’t have the ability to remove those substances (prescription drugs),” Randolph said. “So there’s a big focus on starting to concentrate on this. We’re looking at getting those controlled substances out of circulation.”
According to a news release issued by Grand Lake Health System, the rate of drug abuse and misuse is higher in Ohio than nationally. More people in Ohio die from unintentional medication poisoning than from motor vehicle accidents, and 96 percent of unintentional poisoning deaths in Ohio are from drugs and medications, according to the news release.
Auglaize County Sheriff Al Solomon said the drug take-back days are an addition to the local law enforcement’s efforts to combat drugs in the community.
“One reason for doing this is we don’t want the drugs to end up in the wrong hands, which sometimes happens,” Solomon said. “People aren’t sure — even if they are trying to do the right thing — of where to dispose the drugs at. We have two main ways to combat drugs in this county, and that’s with our Drug Task Force — a cooperation between all of our police forces in the county and the sheriff’s office — and with the DARE program. This is just an added way to combat that problem.”
Last weekend, the hospital and sheriff’s office held a drug take-back day at New Knoxville Local School during the New Bremen/New Knoxville Rotary Blood Screening and will again be attending the event from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. Saturday in the New Bremen High School cafeteria. In addition, the two will be participating in the National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 28 in the front lobby of Joint Township District Memorial Hospital. Vossler said holding drug take-back days during area health fairs has been beneficial.
“Those (the health fairs) have been very successful,” he said. “We were surprised of what we were able to pull in from those health fairs. It’s a collaborative effort with the sheriff’s office because they have to have staff there to do it and we help them with just the logistics of acquiring the secure tubs that the drugs go into and helping the county by covering the disposal costs.”
After the prescription drugs are collected, the hospital uses its partnership with Clean Harbors, the “leading provider of environmental, energy and industrial services throughout North America,” according to the company’s website.
“We were very impressed with Clean Harbors and the approach that they take with this,” Vossler said. “We feel that we have again partnered with a really good company to help us with problem.”
While proper disposal of prescription drugs is currently only available through the drug take-back days, Vossler said the hospital and the sheriff’s office are working to have a deposit box for unwanted prescriptions available on an ongoing basis.
“It has to be supervised by law enforcement, and we cannot take it back here at the hospital because there’s a tremendous amount of strings attached,” he said, noting the hospital would have to know where the prescription came from and how the hospital got them to dispose of the drugs. “If it comes under this type of umbrella where it’s law enforcement-sponsored, we’re able to collaborate and do these types of things. We’re currently working on a program to be able to roll something out very shortly in cooperation with the Auglaize County Sheriff’s Office. It’s really trying to answer the public’s need and the public’s desire to do the right thing and giving them a good avenue to be able to do that.”
Solomon echoed Vossler’s comment, noting that the sheriff’s office also has regulations to follow.
“Once we get the prescription drugs turned in to us, then we’re going to work through the hospital to have an avenue to dispose of the drugs,” he said.
Solomon touted the partnership of the Auglaize County Sheriff’s Office and Joint Township District Memorial Hospital.
“I think it’s great that we can cooperate with Joint Township,” he said. “It not only helps us but it helps the public.”