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Drug drop box: Snoqualmie Valley cops offer safe alternative to dumping prescriptions

Police in Snoqualmie and North Bend are keeping discarded prescription drugs off the street and out of the wrong hands with a tool as simple as a box.

A newly created prescription drop box service is in response to community concerns about safe options for disposal of medicines.

"We want to make sure that everybody realizes there is an opporunity to safely dispose, without contaminating the environment and jeopardizing the safety of their family and friends," said North Bend Police Chief Mark Toner.

Last January, the Snoqualmie Valley Hospital Foundation invited Attorney General Rob McKenna to speak at a forum about Youth Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention, held at Mount Si High School. At the time, police introduced parents to lock boxes for home prescription medicines.

"The follow-up to that was the prescription drug drop-off ability," said Jim Schaffer, Snoqualmie Police Chief and President of Snoqualmie Valley Hospital Foundation.

Prescription drug abuse is a serious and growing problem in the area, said Toner. Drug overdoses have surpassed car accidents as the leading cause of accidental deaths in Washington. The majority of overdoses involve prescription opiates.

When surveyed, three out of five teens say prescription pain relievers are easy to get from parents’ medicine cabinets. According to Toner, more than half of prescription drug abusers get the medicines from a friend or relative. Misused prescription drugs are the illicit drug of choice among 12 and 13 year old. For the first time among teens, there are as many new abusers of prescription drugs as marijuana abusers.

Unused medications pose a risk to families, communities and the environment. Insecurely stored, they may be stolen or mistakenly consumed by family members or house guests. If they are dumped down the drain or thrown into the trash, drugs can contaminate ground water and the environment. Police started the disposal service to overcome the obstacles in a safe, legal manner. Once collected, officers will have the drugs incinerated in a certified process that eliminates risks to the community.

The first person that had used the Snoqualmie drug drop-off box was a man whose mother-in-law passed after a long illness.

"He brought in a Safeway-size plastic shopping bag of all the meds she had been taking. We were able to take that off his hands," Schaffer said. "It just makes it real simple—just get them out of the house when you don't need them."

Prescription drugs can only be possessed by the patient or law enforcement. If you have over the counter medications that you no longer need, you should contact your pharmacy to determine the best method for disposal. Ask your pharmacist if their business has a drug return program in place or if they can refer you to a company that does.

"I feel excited that the Valley has come together so well to address this very real problem of youth prescription drug abuse," said Scott Scowcroft, Snoqualmie Valley Hospital Foundation Executive Director. "Everyone should know that drop-off boxes are safe and secure, anonymous and help save the environment."

Ultimately, both Schaffer and Toner hope the legislation will be modified to where other places can take prescription drugs—pharmacies and doctor's offices, for example—but for the time being, they recommend residents to bring unused prescriptions to either station.

"Way down the road, I'm hoping our program will encourage other agencies throughout the county," Toner said.

For a list of drop-off points, visit www.medicenereturn. If the medication is a prescribed controlled substance you may have to take it to the police department for disposal.

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