The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

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May 23, 2013

NAD, TAG team up to get rid of unwanted pills

HARPERSFIELD TOWNSHIP — There are a lot of unwanted prescription pills in Ashtabula County, and Det. Greg Leonhard of the Trumbull, Ashtabula Group Law Enforcement Task Force hopes to collect them all.

Leonhard spent the day Wednesday accepting unwanted prescription medications at Northwest Ambulance District headquarters on Route 534 during Operation Empty Medicine Cabinet, a pro-active program aimed at collecting unwanted prescriptions before they end up in the community water supply, or worse.

“Dropping off your prescription medications here keeps them out of the hands of burglars or even teenage kids. Keeping any quantity of unused, unneeded pills in the house opens avenues for people to get their hands on them,” Leonhard said.

Leonhard said a similar drug drop off last week in Warren netted 40,000 unwanted pills. The pills are collected by a drug enforcement officer and later destroyed by incineration, he said.

Leonhard said many people simply don’t know what to do with a prescription after they are done taking it or if it has expired.

“Please don’t flush them,” he said. “Wastewater treatment facilities have done tests and found traces of prescription drugs in the water even after the water was treated. Especially if you have city water, do not flush your medications.”

NAD director Vince Gildone said traces of drugs get washed into Lake Erie, causing possible health concerns community-wide.

“That’s why we are holding this event today,” he said. “To keep the drugs out of the water system, off the streets and out of the hands of kids. We see it a lot, you know, for an elderly person, it is a huge burden when a spouse dies and all the prescription medications are left behind. They just don’t know what to do with them.”

Gildone said prescription medications should never be shared and should not be taken if expired.

Leonhard said he is working on establishing drug drop-off points throughout Ashtabula County, but until then he will continue to hold Operation Empty Medicine Cabinet events whenever possible.

“Bethany Lutheran Church in Ashtabula will host a medicine drop off event in the fall,” he said.

Gildone said hosting the events is in the best interest of the community.

“It amazes me the amount of medication that doesn’t get taken,” he said. “It isn’t safe for these drugs to be out in the community. This drop off is the right thing to do and that is why we do it.”

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