EUSTIS – Two local counties are taking aim at drugs – but the focus is on legally prescribed drugs, not illegal ones.
Osceola County is considering an ordinance that would ban any new pain management clinics from opening up until the county can find ways to further regulate them, while in Lake County, the focus is on prescription drugs sitting in residents’ medicine cabinet that may never be taken.
The Lake County Department of Public Works is working with the Eustis Police Department and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration on a program called “Prescription Drugs Take Back.” It will be held on Saturday, April 16, from 9 a.m. to noon at the Tractor Supply Company parking lot, located at 100 Ardice Ave., Eustis.
It’s designed to encourage residents to properly dispose of all unwanted or expired ingestible medicines, vitamins or cough syrups. The county’s Household Hazardous Waste unit will also be on-hand collecting unwanted household hazardous waste.
The event will be staffed by people offering a drive-through disposal option, so residents don’t even have to leave their car.
Johnny Taylor, Lake County’s hazardous waste coordinator, said the idea is to give people the ability to safely dispose of medications they may no longer need or want to take.
“This is our third time doing this,” he said. “This program falls under Operation Medicine Cabinet, which is nationwide. It’s a program that allows residents to turn in old medication, excessive amounts of medication, with the assistance of law enforcement.”
What some people might not realize, Taylor said, is that the proper disposal of unwanted or expired medicines is important, and not just so it won’t get into the hands of children. Turning medications over to a hazardous waste agency, or to the local police, prevents potential water supply contamination, since studies indicate that disposing of medications down the toilet or sink contaminates water supplies and endangers aquatic life in lakes, rivers and streams.
“Once upon a time, that was the norm to flush it down the toilet to get rid of it,” Taylor said. “But now we know about the danger it poses to the water source, and it’s our job to get the word out.”
Wastewater facilities, he added, are not designed to remove pharmaceuticals from the water supply. That’s why the county is holding events like this one, to give people a safe place to dispose of unwanted medications, while also educating them about the risks those medications pose.
“That is the intent,” Taylor said. “This operation is a coordinated effort that allows them to do that. Some of the medication that residents have is somewhat toxic, like Oxycotin and other strong medicines. We are giving them a place to properly dispose of them.”
This is not a new program, he added.
“It’s not something that we invented here in Lake County,” he said. “A lot more people are aware of it now that we’re getting the word out, the impact it has on the water source. Many people are unaware of the potential hazards of abuse and misuse of prescription and non-prescription medicine that exist in their home medicine cabinets. Instead of disposing of old pills or liquids down the toilet or sink, sharing them with a friend or throwing them in the garbage, the Prescription Drugs Take Back events give residents an opportunity to dispose of unwanted or expired medicines and Household Hazardous Waste properly. It’s one way to get medication off the street into a proper place for disposal. This routine that we have set in place, we did a test run last year and we collected medication in two areas in Lake County. Now we’re getting an opportunity to expand this program throughout the year. That’s the game plan.”
That includes bringing this program to every city in the county, he said, adding that in the past two years, turnout was strong and residents responded to the opportunity to safely dispose of their unwanted pills.
“You put the information out there and residents will dispose of what they have,” he said. “At the present time, we’re working on certain things with the sheriff’s department, along with each city police department. In Tavares, they have a drop box at their police department for these pills.”
All disposals of medications at the event will be done anonymously, with no questions asked.
A few items will not be collected at the event, including infectious waste, photographic chemicals, solvents, wastes with a high content of heavy metals such as mercury and cadmium, chemical laboratory wastes or radioactive waste.
For more information about Prescription Drugs Take Back, call 352-343-3776.
While Lake County is asking residents to voluntarily get rid of their unwanted drugs, Osceola County is taking aim at so-called “pill mills,” or pain management clinics that residents can go to for pain medication.
On Monday, Osceola County Sheriff Bob Hansell testified before county commissioners on a proposed ordinance regulating pain management clinics. Staff from both the County Commission and Sheriff’s Office are working together to establish a moratorium on any future pill mills in Osceola County.
There are now 14 licensed pain management clinics operating in Osceola County. A moratorium would temporarily halt any future clinics from opening until new standards are established for how they operate.
Hansell said pain management pills have created major headaches for his office. In 2010, he told commissioners, his office made more than 300 arrests for illegal prescription drugs. More than 100 of those arrests involved trafficking illegal prescription drugs, primarily Oxycodone and OxyContin.
The Medical Examiner’s Office also reported there were 10 deaths last year in Osceola County involving the misuse of prescription drugs.
“The Sheriff’s Office is aggressively working to combat this growing epidemic,” Hansell said. “A moratorium, similar to what other local jurisdictions are adopting, will reduce the threat to the health, safety and welfare of Osceola County citizens.”
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