BY MICHAEL RICONDA
NEW CITY – The Rockland County Sheriff’s Department announced on Tuesday it was experiencing continued success with this year’s Operation: Medicine Cabinet, a program which allows residents to turn in unused or expired prescription drugs with no questions asked.
The program, a collaborative effort between the Sheriff’s Department, District Attorney’s Office and Rockland’s local police departments, is designed to provide a safe repository for excess pills, medicated ointments, sprays, inhalers and other pharmaceutical waste. Residents can deposit the drugs in special drop boxes at police stations across the county before the substances are sealed in large barrels and destroyed.
“We want people to turn in all expired or unused drugs to local police departments or the Sheriffs Office so we can properly dispose of them through an incineration process that we partake in and we pay for,” Sheriff Louis Falco said.
The Sheriff’s Office collects 700-800 pounds of medications every six to eight months. Within the past half year, they collected about 1,000 pounds.
Falco reported the program was popular due in part to a public need for a safe alternative to other disposal methods such as flushing, which often place drugs in the water system. According to him, the no-strings-attached approach encourages people to safely clean out their medicine cabinets with no strings attached.
“We get random calls from people from all walks of life and all ages, from young people to senior citizens on how they can properly dispose of these drugs,” Falco explained.
The program was initiated in 2010 in response to a nationwide surge in prescription drug abuse, particularly among young people who find the medication in their friends’ or families’ drug cabinets. Oftentimes, the problem is complicated when users move on from expensive and difficult to obtain prescription drugs to cheaper street drugs like heroin.
According to CDC figures, prescription drug deaths have quadrupled between 1999 and 2010. Rockland reported 12 overdose deaths within the past year alone.