For years, the federal Drug Enforcement Agency funded drug take back events around the country to collect and dispose of unused, unwanted or expired prescription drugs, but that money ran out.
As Donald Hall was transitioning to executive director from senior drug agent at Medway Drug Enforcement Agency, losing the funding for the program stressed him out.
After all, the amount of drugs collected increased each year since the program was implemented.
By collecting the drugs — there are nine boxes around the county — it kept the prescription medication out of landfills, waterways and streams.
It also cuts down on trafficking cases because it was not uncommon for these drugs to be stolen during real estate showings or at other times, Hall told the Wayne County commissioners at their meeting last week.
Not knowing what to do, Hall asked commissioners Scott Wiggam, Jim Carmichael and Ann Obrecht what could be done.
In 2011, the county collected 1,100 pounds of drugs.
It rose to 1,700 in 2012; 2,500 in 2013; and 3,500 in 2014.
“I think the numbers will increase,” Hall said. “I don’t want to give up this program.”
Wiggam said the drugs could be a problem if they end up in landfills or in waterways. The county operates a number of treatment plants, and they know when someone has dumped pills into a stream because, at times, the problem has to be mitigated.
They worked with the Stark-Tuscarawas-Wayne Joint Solid Waste District and found a solution.
Executive David Held said the solid waste district will fund the program and assist with the safe disposal of the medications.
“It could have jeopardized the program,” Held said of DEA ending its financial support.
Obrecht is glad to have a solution. “This protects our kids, families and environment.”
This year, the solid waste district will provide assistance, and moving forward the program will be included in the budget, Wiggam said.
Hall said he has about 2,600 pounds awaiting disposal.
The district works with local companies to safely incinerate the medications, and they provide the services at reduced and limited costs, Held said. He anticipates the Wayne County program not to exceed $4,000 annually.
The district takes in the highest volume of unwanted, unused or expired drugs, Held said.
The numbers are high because in Wayne and Stark counties, there are boxes to receive these medications in law enforcement agencies and people have access to them 24 hours a day. In most communities, there is a one-day event.