By Jennifer Lane
Individuals in Hardin County can now safely and properly dispose of unwanted, leftover, or expired medications as part of a drug take back program through a grant offered by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Family Counseling Center, Inc. is utilizing the contract as a resource in its “Be the One” campaign promoted by the Hardin County Opioid Response Program. Unwanted medicines can be dropped off over the counter at the Hardin County Sheriff’s Department in Elizabethtown or at Hardin County Pharmacy in Rosiclare.
“When we began the opioid response planning, we discussed that one of the predictions for opioid use disorder is having access to opioids, increasing the chances of someone misusing them,” said Alisha Foster, Hardin County Opioid Response Coordinator. “We recognized right away that diversion control was going to be a significant component of preventing misuse of opioids or someone going down the path of an opioid use disorder. We knew at that time we needed to implement a take back program.”
Foster said several local services such as the pharmacy, hospital, and sheriff’s department encountered situations where people were wanting to drop off unused medicines.
They had shared concerns during the opioid response planning that it was expensive to properly dispose of the medications and they wanted more information on where and how they should dispose of them.
After some research, Foster identified the grant/contract through the EPA and applied. Foster said it did take a little more time than she expected to get approved and to have everything in place. However, now that Hardin County is established, she is confident it will continue as they reapply each July.
Reduce Access, Reduce Misuse –
One goal of the coalition’s response while offering drug take back services is to reduce access to opioids with hopes that it will reduce misuse of opioids. Scenarios of cases where opioid misuse could take place include: a spouse passed away and left behind a medicine cabinet full of prescriptions, or a person may have been prescribed a pain medication after an injury, but has now recovered. The left over medicine might sit in the medicine cabinet or some other place where children, teenagers or other adults have open access to it. Instead of holding on to unused medicines, the drug take back service offers people a way to avoid any misuse with their prescriptions.
In addition to the local “Be the One” campaign, Family Counseling Center promotes, supports, and reiterates the statewide campaign, “Guard and Discard”. The Guard and Discard media campaign is designed to raise public awareness of the importance of safe use, safe storage and safe disposal of prescription painkillers in preventing opioid misuse.
Illinois EPA’s goals in providing the contract to Hardin County are to reduce scenarios of accidental poisoning, substance abuse, and contamination of water resources. Many people think that it is okay to flush medicine down the toilet or pour it down a sink drain; however, those methods of disposal can contaminate water supplies.
What can be dropped off for disposal by the Illinois EPA through the local drug take back?
• unwanted pharmaceutical wastes
• mercury containing items
• sharps (Must be placed in a medical sharps container, or a heavy plastic like a laundry detergent bottle or metal container sealed with heavy duty tape. “Do Not Recycle” should be written on the container with a permanent marker. It should be puncture-proof and not overfilled. Clear or glass containers cannot be used.)
• controlled substances, prescriptions, over the counter products, vitamins, dietary supplements, homeopathic remedies, and pet medications.
What should not be dropped off for disposal by the Illinois EPA through the local drug take back?
• Illicit drugs such as marijuana, heroin, LSD, may not be disposed as part of this disposal method
• No personal information should be shown on prescription bottles. Black out or remove personal information from the prescription bottles before disposal.
• Persons may not dispose of any controlled substances that are illegally obtained and possessed.
Though illicit drugs may not be discarded with this drug take back service, a police deflection initiative has been discussed among the Opioid Response coalition members. If the idea were to become a reality, the program would provide seamless, immediate services to those who were to come in to the sheriff’s department admitting they are abusing illicit or prescription drugs and requesting help. At that time they would surrender their substances/paraphernalia and be taken in for evaluation and treatment. Those substances would be discarded through other procedures.
Before the take back was in place, Jessica Fricker, Hardin County Jail Administrator, said they would collect the medication dropped off and use deactivation packets provided by Family Counseling Center for disposal. Now, the department wants to encourage people to bring in their medicines during regular office hours, daily from 8 a.m. until midnight to drop off directly with the dispatcher. Other arrangements can be worked out if a person needs to drop off at a different time.
“We are really excited to be working with Family Counseling Center on several projects,” said Fricker. “Initiating this drug take back program is one of the first tangible steps we can make in response to opioid misuse in Hardin County. We look forward to even more progress as we coordinate with Family Counseling to establish a police deflection program and a substance abuse program for the new detention center.”
Will my privacy be protected?
This drug take back service is designed to be an anonymous and private transaction free from barriers. The person collecting the medication at the pharmacy or sheriff’s department will not force people to provide any personal information about themselves, their prescription, or their physician. There is no inspection of the collected items. Once collected, staff will discard of the waste in a secured container. In the future, organizers hope to have drop boxes where individuals could discard items directly.
Amanda Etienne, pharmacist and owner of Hardin County Pharmacy, suggests that people who want to drop off medicines should place them in a bag and hand them over the counter during business hours and no questions will be asked. She said before this service was in place, she would direct customers to take advantage of drug take back events out of the county or donate them to the Bridge Clinic that was once open in Harrisburg.
“We are happy to be involved in the program and we hope to get a good response,” said Etienne. “Now, people won’t have to drive to another county or town to responsibly dispose of their unwanted prescriptions.”
Currently, the Illinois EPA funds the contracted services of Heritage Environmental Services to deliver drug disposal containers to the pharmacy and the sheriff’s department and pick up for disposal when needed.
To take part in Hardin County’s response to opioid misuse, visit and like its facebook page “Hardin County’s Be The One” or visit http://www.fccinconline.org/betheone .
About Hardin County Opioid Response –
In 2018, Family Counseling Center, Inc. entered into a formal coalition with Hardin County General Hospital, SIU School of Medicine: Center for Rural Health and Social Sciences, Southern 7 Health Department and Prevention First of Springfield to combine knowledge, skills, resources and a passion for addressing opioid use within Hardin County. With the support of the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under the Rural Communities Opioid Response (Planning) Program, Family Counseling Center, Inc. and the coalition sought to gain a better understanding of the prevalence / incidence of opioid use disorder as well as its overall impact in Hardin County.
In January 2019, the dissemination of a community needs assessment survey resulted in the need for prevention, treatment, and recovery awareness of opioid use disorder. Over the course of one year, the coalition has developed evidence-based, data-driven strategic plans to adequately respond to the opioid issues within Hardin County including the use of a communication campaign, “Be the One.”