(ST. JOSEPH, MO) No city, town or county is immune to the national opioid epidemic in the United States.
That includes St. Joseph.
“There's a lot of people with prescription medicines in their cabinets homes some of them are painkillers.” St. Joseph Police Sergeant Larry Stobbs said. "We've got a lot of problems in this country with Opioids."
Stobbs said on a weekly basis the police department gets calls about the problem.
"'Hey I've got a family member with a drug problem,' or 'They are over-using what they are supposed to and I need to get these medicines out of my cabinet,' those kind of things," he said.
This has led to a rise in headlines about the opioid epidemic, but an event working to keep pills out of the wrong hands has been going on for years. National Drug Take Back Day is a biannual event put on by the Drug Enforcement Administration.
“It’s for people to drop off any unused or unneeded prescription meds that they might have laying around in their medicine cabinets” Stobbs said.
One by one, unused or unwanted pills and packages started to pile up in the East Hills Shopping Center parking lot during the event. The police department, Buchanan County Sheriff’s office, St. Joseph Youth Alliance and a group of volunteers worked the local event together. Each discarded med made the community a little safer.
“Hopefully that’s keeping it out of kids hands and adults that they are not prescribed too,” Youth Alliance Coordinator Angela Reynolds said.
Stobbs said kids are a driving force in participation.
"You got grandparents that got their grandkids running around and their afraid their grandkids will get in the medicine," He said. "So I think that's what really drives folks to get those things turned in."
According to a 2015 National survey on drug use and health states that 6.4 million Americans abused controlled prescription drugs, and that a majority of abused prescription drugs originated from home medicine cabinets, the study said. But Take Back Day goes beyond pills. It also takes needles, inhalers and even creams.
“People typically don’t know how to get rid of those things,” Stobbs said. “So we take those too and we work locally to make sure they are disposed off properly.”
The dangers of old prescription drugs don't stop by clearing out a medicine cabinet. Improperly disposing of those drugs, like flushing them, can taint local waterways.
“American Water also works with us on this event,” Reynolds said. “This is really the best way to dispose of your medicines so they don’t get back into the water.”
"No matter what, that's stuff the water company can't filter out," he said.
Local volunteers and agencies hope the event plays a role in someday ending the opioid problem in northwest Missouri.
About 466 cars stopped by the event to drop off pills, bottles, syringes or inhalers. The local Take Back event collected 938 pounds of drugs, 63 pounds of pill bottles, 11 pounds of inhalers, and 118 pounds of needles.
"The most we've ever collected," Stobbs said.
The drugs will be taken to the state police facility and will be properly destroyed.