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Unwanted pills collected by Whidbey Island law enforcement
While throngs of folks are watching the Holland Happenings parade next Saturday, three of the top cops on Whidbey Island will be elbows-deep in pills.
For the second year in a row, Island County Sheriff Mark Brown, Lt. John Dyer with the Oak Harbor Police Department and Coupeville Marshal David Penrod will be collecting unwanted medications under a drug take-back program sponsored by the Drug Enforcement Administration.
“It’s truly a no-cost way to assist the public with getting rid of unwanted medication to make sure they don’t get into the wrong hands or harm the environment,” Dyer said, noting that he and his two partners don’t collect overtime pay.
Anyone can drop off unwanted medication at any of three locations from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, April 30. The locations are the Oak Harbor Police Department at 860 SE Barrington Dr. in Oak Harbor, the Coupeville Marshal’s Office at 4 NE Seventh St. in Coupeville and the sheriff’s South Precinct office at 5521 E. Harbor Road in Freeland.
The service is free and anonymous. No questions asked.
The purpose of the take-back program, Penrod explained, is to help prevent pill abuse. He worries about people in his community, especially the elderly, who may have drug cabinets filled with narcotic medications. They could become targets of thieves, with Oxycontin selling for $1 a milligram on the black market. The rate of prescription drug abuse in the nation has skyrocketed in recent years.
Plus, health officials warn about improperly disposed medications polluting the environment, especially the water supply.
“The days of flushing pills down the toilet are pretty much done,” Penrod said.
Sheriff Brown and Island County Commissioner Helen Price Johnson joined with law enforcement and local government officials across the state earlier this year in support of a state bill that would have obligated pharmaceutical manufacturers to fund a medicine return program. But Price Johnson said the pharmaceutical lobby came out hard against the bill and it failed to make it out of the Senate committee by one vote.
“There’s a growing awareness across our country of how devastating these medications have become,” she said, adding that the government take-back programs amount to a subsidy to the drug companies.
Brown agrees, pointing out that his department often has to deal with the fallout when people steal or abuse prescription drugs.
“I don’t think with the millions and millions they make it would be a problem for them to pay for it,” he said.
It appears that there’s a need for such a program in the county. Last fall, Brown, Dyer and Penrod collected more than 330 pounds of unwanted drugs from citizens in just a few hours of the take-back program.
“I had someone come in with literally a garbage bag full of drugs,” Penrod said. “She had been taking care of her mother who had cancer and she just didn’t know what to do with it all.”
Dyer said he was shocked by the amount of people who participated last time. He said a lot of caregivers came in with drugs, as well as people with left over medication for pets.
“I heard over and over again that they had stuff in their homes for years,” he said. “They really appreciate it.”
The cops will accept both prescription and over-the-counter drugs, which will be sent to the DEA for proper disposal at high temperatures.
But there’s one thing Penrod asks. Please, no more Bengay.