Local officials are wasting no opportunity to collect unused medications, including a pill take-back event scheduled next week in conjunction with a nationwide effort by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
It will be held Tuesday from 4 to 6 p.m. in the upper parking lot of Walmart in Mount Airy, near Circle K.
This will give the public another opportunity to prevent pill abuse and theft by ridding homes of potentially dangerous expired, unused and unwanted prescription drugs.
Such collection events have become commonplace recently in Surry County, where drug overdoses have reached epidemic proportions. Officials view every pill taken off the streets as potentially saving a life.
“We are doing it because it needs to be done, but it’s also a national take-back,” Lt. Kelly Hiatt of the Mount Airy Police Department said of the Tuesday event’s tie-in with National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day. It officially will be observed by the DEA on Oct. 26, but local agencies opted to conduct their take-back on Tuesday instead.
In addition to city police, personnel of the Mount Airy Fire Department and Surry County Emergency Medical Service will be involved. Safe Kids North Carolina also will be part of the fall medicine drop-off event here.
Any kind of pills will be accepted — both prescription and non-prescription varieties — but Hiatt said no sharps (needles or syringes) or liquids can be taken.
340,453 And Counting
In the past, pill take-back activities locally were limited to one Operation Medicine Drop campaign held in March.
However, they have been held with increasing frequency in the last couple of years due to the severity of prescription medication abuse in Surry. In 2011, for example, at least 30 county residents lost their lives, with paramedics responding to about 500 overdose incidents overall.
To rid the community of as many of the substances as possible, a drop-box was established in the lobby of the Mount Airy police station to receive pills on a 24-hour, seven-days-per-week basis.
Also, regular take-back events have been held, along with public awareness campaigns by the police Community Services Division headed by Hiatt. Most recently, this included pill collections during the Autumn Leaves Festival and at the annual football game between Mount Airy and North Surry high schools on Sept. 13.
The latter effort was sponsored by two MAHS students who are members of a school peer group associated with Project Lazarus, a countywide initiative to combat the overdose problem. Their campaign resulted in 3,052 pills being collected.
“It was the first time it had been done at a football game, so (3,052) was wonderful,” Hiatt said of the result.
So far, the efforts collectively have resulted in 340,453 pills being received.
“We keep a running total,” Hiatt said.
Reach Tom Joyce at 719-1924 or firstname.lastname@example.org.