Tonawanda News

April 25, 2014

Hospitals plan drug drop-off day

By Mia Summerson mia.summerson@tonawanda-news.com
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — A lot of people have a tough time remembering to clear out their closets and get rid of things that they don’t need anymore. But there’s one common storage place in the home that can turn into a pretty serious problem if not kept updated - the medicine cabinet.

People tend to accrue various prescription medications over time that can be abused if they end up in the wrong hands. Over the past few years, the topic of prescription drug abuse has gained more attention. 

“The national statistic among high school students is that 15 percent of seniors report having tried using prescription drugs illicitly,” said Christina Kruzer, the special events coordinator for Kids Escaping Drugs. “It’s going up.”

On Saturday, residents of the Tonawandas will have the opportunity to bring their outdated prescription medications to a facility that will see to it that the drugs are disposed of properly and kept out of the hands of those who seek to use them for the wrong reasons. 

Michelle Spahn at the DEA said that since beginning this program, all of Upstate New York has collected an impressive 154,000 pounds of prescriptions. 

“Our numbers will probably be down a bit this year because we’ve installed drug drop boxes so that people can drop their prescriptions off throughout the year,” Spahn said. “People still come out to the event though, it makes them feel involved.” 

DeGraff Memorial Hospital and Kenmore Mercy Hospital are among more than three dozen locations throughout Western New York that will be participating in a national drug-drop off day Saturday. At any time between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. people may drop their old prescriptions off. 

According to Dawn Cwierley, the public relations manager at Kenmore Mercy, the drugs that are collected are safely burned at Covanta Energy. She says it’s not just important to dispose of the drugs that way to keep them out of the wrong hands but also to protect our resources. 

“The amount of medications that are going into our environment is enormous,” she said. “We need to make sure that medications are only taken by the right people but that they don’t end up in the water or in garbage dumps either. This (program) is a great way we dispose of the drugs properly.”

Cwierley added that when Kenmore Mercy first held a drug drop-off day in 2009, they collected several hundred pounds of prescription medications, with a street value of about $40,000. 

Phyllis Gentner, senior marketing associate at DeGraff, says that their program has also been successful. In the past, she said, they’ve seen 300 cars come through on a single day and collected just under 1,000 pounds of medication. She’s expecting an equal, if not greater, turnout this year. 

“We’re hoping the community takes it seriously,” Gentner said. “The more people participate, the more drugs we can get out of people’s homes.”

Those who plan to drop off their old prescriptions are encouraged to leave the name of the drug visible so that they can be sorted. Personal information such as names may be scratched off or blacked out. 

For a complete list of participating locations, visit www.nationalprescriptiondrugdropoff.com.

Contact reporter Mia Summerson at 693-1000, ext. 4313.