Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs Secretary Gary Tennis announced Monday, Jan. 13 at the Lackawanna County Courthouse, Scranton that Gov. Tom Corbett’s Healthy Pennsylvania drug take-back initiative will fund up to 250 secure MedReturn boxes throughout the state, providing a safe place to dispose of unwanted or unused prescription drugs.
The initiative is a partnership between the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association (PDAA), the Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs (DDAP) and the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD).
PCCD received a federal grant of $100,000 for the boxes. Local district attorney offices throughout the state can apply for a portion of the funding by providing a plan for the installation of the MedReturn boxes and disposal of the medications. The grants are made possible through through the Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs and the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency.
According to Lackawanna County District Attorney Andy Jarbola, there are three locations with a MedReturn box in Lackawanna County: the Lackawanna County Courthouse in Scranton, the Carbondale police station, and the South Abington Township police station. The hours for each location are 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
South Abington Township Police Chief Robert Gerrity believes the Drug Take-Back locations will be an important safety asset for the Abingtons, and Pennsylvania as a whole.
“The drop off center is open to anyone, not necessarily a resident of the Abingtons, who needs a place to drop off drugs,” he said. “The purpose is to keep the unused narcotics out of bad hands.”
According to Gerrity, the drop box was utilized almost immediately after it was set up.
“Probably 15 minutes after we had our box installed, we had a gentleman drop off a huge bag of prescription pills and we’ve had people coming in and out on a regular basis,” he said.
Items accepted include: prescription and over-the-counter solid medications, tablets and capsules, liquid medications, inhalers, creams, ointments, nasal sprays, and pet medicines. Intravenous solutions, injectables and needles will not be accepted.
“We wanted to participate in this initiative due to the increasing number of overdoses as a result of old medications that are in peoples homes,” Jarbola said. “Their children or young teenagers are taking these pills that are just laying around. I think it’s very important for the community to know there is a safe place to put these items, instead of flushing them down the toilet or throwing them in the garbage where they can get into landfills and our water supply.”
According a 2010 study conducted by Trust for America’s Health, in Pennsylvania, the drug overdose death rate was greater than the motor vehicle death rate in 2010.
“Gov. Corbett has taken strong leadership in addressing the drug overdose problem that we’re experiencing all across the Commonwealth,” Tennis said. “Our young people are getting caught up in this at an overwhelming rate by accessing these prescription drugs from the medicine cabinets of their families and friends families. It’s no longer safe to keep your unused or expired drugs in your medicine cabinet.”
According to Jarbola, the plan is to install two more boxes in the county, one in the North Pocono area and one in the Downvalley.
“This is an important step forward for Lackawanna County and the Commonwealth,” Tennis said. “It’s going to have an impact, not only from the safety or our kids, but on public safety.”