Law enforcement in Waupaca County collected more than 400 pounds of unused and expired medications during this spring’s Medication Take Back Day.
“There was more promotion this time, particularly in the Waupaca area,” said Debbie Krogwold, Waupaca County’s recycling coordinator.
The promotion efforts included a ThedaCare-led Waupaca CHAT (Community Health Action Team) initiative, information at Waupaca’s senior health fair, newspaper articles, and an appearance by Krogwold on WDUX’s Thursday Breakfast Show.
Waupaca CHAT partnered with Waupaca County and provided funding to help publicize the collection.
“Waupaca County received a grant through the Department of Ag, Trade and Consumer Protection. It helped cover the cost of the disposal of the medications and publicity and some of the law enforcement labor,” Krogwold said. “There wasn’t enough funding from the grant to print all the flyers we needed or have a professional campaign done. CHAT made that possible.”
Last month’s Medication Take Back Day was a national event sponsored by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
The DEA sponsors a Medication Take Back Day in the spring and another one in the fall.
In Waupaca County, medication drop-off boxes are available throughout the year at four locations – the Clintonville, New London and Weyauwega police departments and the Waupaca County Sheriff’s Department.
The April 26 collection took place at those four permanent sites and also at three other police departments – the Manawa, Marion and Waupaca police departments.
Since four law enforcement agencies have permanent boxes, in the past, the amount of drugs recorded at the spring and fall collections included how much was collected over the course of six months, Krogwold said.
This year, she asked the Clintonville, New London and Weyauwega police departments and the sheriff’s department to keep track of how much was collected just on April 26.
The departments that participated in the April 26 Medication Take Back Day collected a total of 475.5 pounds of prescription and over-the-counter medications.
The Waupaca Police Department collected 169.5 pounds of that amount.
“They were pretty busy for the four hours,” said Waupaca Police Chief Tim Goke.
This spring’s total at the Waupaca Police Department compared to the 46 pounds collected last October and the 244 pounds collected in April 2013.
More drop boxes needed
Goke is now exploring whether a permanent drop box is needed there, even though there is already a box located in the city, at the sheriff’s department.
Aaron Jenson, the city’s parks and recreation director, is a member of Waupaca CHAT, and he approached Goke and asked if a box could be added at the police department.
“It would have to be a secure location,” Goke said. “We would have to explore potential grants.”
The police department’s lobby is open 24 hours a day. Since it is small space, it would have to be a pass-through system, he said.
The other amounts collected on the one-day event included 85 pounds at the Manawa Police Department, 66 pounds at the New London Police Department, 57 pounds at the Weyauwega Police Department, 35 pounds at the Marion Police Department, 33 pounds at the Clintonville Police Department, and 30 pounds at the sheriff’s department.
Among the items taken to the Manawa Police Department was medication dating back to 1969, according to Police Chief Dave Walker.
Krogwold said, “That gives you an idea of what can be in a house.”
The medication collection logs of the agencies that have permanent boxes show that from last October until the April 26 collection, a total of 768 pounds was collected at the four sites.
That includes 174.5 pounds at the Clintonville Police Department, 378 pounds at the New London Police Department, 82 pounds at the Weyauwega Police Department and 133.5 pounds at the sheriff’s department.
The total amount collected in the county during the last six months was 1,057.5 pounds. That figure includes the amounts from the four permanent locations and also the amounts collected at the additional three police departments during the April 26 event.
It is estimated that packaging accounts for about 36 percent of the weight of a medication. The amounts recorded by each agency included the packaging.
When that is taken into consideration, Krogwold estimates that the agencies collected 304 pounds of actual medications on April 26 and 678.8 over the course of the last six months.
She said that amount includes the packaging weight of liquid over-the-counter and prescription medications.
“We really don’t know who participated and where the medications were coming from,” Krogwold said of the spring collection. “It’s not only the general public, but veterinary clinics.”
Law enforcement agencies must be involved in the collections because narcotics are in the mix.
After the Medication Take Back Day, law enforcement transported the medications to the DEA, where they were incinerated.
Medications should not be flushed down a toilet, Goke said. Whether in pill or liquid form, it will get into the water system, he said.
Medications should be kept in their original containers with the medication name visible. For prescription medications, the person’s name should be removed from the label.
Accepted are expired or unwanted prescription medications, over-the-counter medications, medication samples, pet medications, liquid medications, medicated ointments and vitamins.
Sharps – needles, syringes, lancets – are accepted at Riverside Medical Center in Waupaca, New London Medical Center and ThedaCare Physicians in Clintonville.
While there is always publicity about the spring and fall national collections, Krogwold stresses that people may drop off their unused and expired medications throughout the year.
They do not have to wait until one of the two national events.
“People are continually being prescribed medications, so there is a need throughout the year for the service,” she said.
From a law enforcement perspective, the main concern is who has access to a controlled substance.
Presciption drug abuse is a nationwide problem, Goke said.
On April 26, Wisconsin residents dropped off a total of 25 tons of unwanted, expired or unused over-the-counter or prescription drugs at 200 collection sites statewide.
According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Wisconsin ranked third in the nation in the total amount collected, behind California and Texas.