A new initiative has been announced in western Massachusetts in an effort to reduce drug overdose deaths and the misuse of prescription medications.
The Hampden County District Attorney, Sheriff’s Department, and Chiefs of Police from a dozen local police departments have partnered to give people a safe, secure, means for disposing of any unwanted or unused medications, at no cost and no questions asked.
DA Anthony Gulluni announced Tuesday that permanent drug drop-off boxes are located at eight police departments across Hampden County with another four local police departments and the Hampden County House of Corrections and Women’s Correctional Center scheduled to join the program shortly.
"Please, lets make use of these," implored Gulluni. " It is a great resource."
A list of items that can be put in the drop-off boxes includes prescription and non-prescription drugs, vitamins, and veterinary medications. Needles, liquids, and chemotherapy drugs are prohibited.
Citing a statistic that four-out-of-five heroin users initially abused prescription drugs, Gulluni said cleaning out home medicine cabinets is an important tool in fighting opioid addiction.
"We are treating addiction as a disease and this is one more tool that can be used by our residents to make sure these medications don't fall into the wrong hands and cause further suffering," said Gulluni.
Arrangements have been made to have the drugs that are deposited in the secure boxes transported to an incinerator for disposal.
"Covanta in Agawam will environmentally responsibly dispose of these drugs and keep them out of our water streams and trash systems," assured Gulluni.
Hampden County Sheriff Mike Ashe said officers from his department will periodically collect the contents of the drop-off boxes at participating police departments.
" I have a transportation team that is out everyday, so this is not a new or extra expense. This part of their work," said Ashe.
A drug drop-off box was placed at the Chicopee Police station on June 1st. Police Chief William Jebb said the box needs to be emptied on an almost weekly basis.
" We have had no issues whatsoever. It is an amazing program and it is extremely successful in our community," said Jebb.
In addition to Chicopee, the boxes are located at the police departments in Agawam, Hampden, Longmeadow, Ludlow, Monson, Southwick, and Westfield. Future locations are: East Longmeadow, Palmer, West Springfield, and Wilbraham.
The Springfield Police Department is not participating in the drug takeback program because, a spokesman said, there is no secure location for the drop-off box in the lobby of the police station.
A similar program operates at 25 locations in Hampshire and Franklyn Counties under the direction of Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan.
Gov. Charlie Baker announced earlier this month that 13 drug takeback kiosks will be located in Walgreens across the state including a store in Springfield.