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Drug take-back effort set for Mount Airy-North Surry game

Tom Joyce Staff Reporter

September 11, 2013

Thousands of enthusiastic fans will head to the annual Mount Airy-North Surry football game Friday night, when it is hoped they will be equally enthusiastic about disposing of unwanted prescription pills.


As part of the game activities, several city police officers and Mount Airy students will man a drug take-back site that could mean door prizes for those who drop off unused medications there.


“We’re going to have a tent set up,” said Lt. Kelly Hiatt of the Mount Airy Police Department’s community-policing unit. It has been at the forefront of efforts to rid the community of unwanted or unused prescription drugs to keep them from reaching the wrong hands and leading to overdose and other problems.


That has included a disposal site at the police station which is open 24 hours a day, seven days per week, and special take-back programs, such as the one planned Friday near the main gate of Wallace Shelton Stadium on the home side of the field.


“We’re only taking pills,” Hiatt said. “If it’s in pill form, we’ll take it — no needles or liquids.”


Medications will be accepted from 6 p.m. to the start of halftime, when drawings will be held for the door prizes related to the drug disposal. Those dropping off drugs will receive tickets for the drawing, according to Hiatt, who said the contest is open to adults only.


“We want to stress that we want adults bringing us the pills,” the community police officer added. “We don’t want parents sending their kids to the ballgame with pills — this is for adults to turn in, not kids.”


Students’ Idea

Friday’s take-back plans were the brainchild of two students at Mount Airy High, Erica Carlisle and Abby Hagwood, members of a peer group at the school.


The group, which now has six members, was formed under the guidance of Officer James Simmons, school resource officer at MAHS, as a tie-in to the countywide Project Lazarus program. Project Lazarus involves students as well as adults battling the prescription drug problem that is responsible for many deaths in Surry.


Carlisle and Hagwood were excited about doing something to help and wanted to take on the drug program as their senior project.


“Throughout high school, the two of us have been very involved in SADD but Tru,” Carlisle said of her and Hagwood’s role with a group seeking to reduce underage drinking.


“They hit the ground running,” Simmons said Tuesday. They suggested conducting the drug take-back during the Mount Airy-North Surry rivalry game because it is so well attended, which has the potential for a significant amount of pills being collected.


It is hoped that the drug take-back will become a part of that game every year, Simmons said.


Carlisle, Hagwood and other group members have tried to publicize Friday’s effort by preparing posters and distributing fliers announcing it in the territory covered by both Mount Airy and North Surry high schools, to reach as many people as possible. Recorded telephone messages to homes from the school system’s central office is another part of the notification campaign.


The students also solicited businesses to provide the door prizes.


Despite thousands of pills being accepted already at the police department and special collections, which have kept them out of teens’ and others’ hands, the dangers persist, according to Hiatt.


“They make them every day and they dispense them every day, so there’s still a bunch of them out there.”


Reach Tom Joyce at 719-1924 or tjoyce@civitasmedia.com.