Pharmacy adds drug disposal box

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BENNINGTON — Without any fanfare, The Pharmacy in Bennington has installed a drug disposal box, making it the eighth Bennington County location where the public can safely get rid of unwanted prescription drugs and over-the-counter medication.

A sign on the box says it accepts items including prescription patches, prescription ointments and vitamins — but not syringes or illicit drugs. Liquid meds are accepted as long as they're less than 4 ounces.

More than half the people who misuse prescription drugs in Vermont get them from a friend or relative, "often just going into their medicine cabinet or pills that are left on the kitchen counter," said Pharmacist Michael Leake of The Pharmacy, citing data from the state Department of Health.

"What we're trying to do is be part of the broader solution," he said. "It's kind of new that pharmacies have the boxes, and people are just finding out about this."

The Pharmacy in Bennington is the eighth location in the county to install a drug disposal box, said Maryann Morris, executive director of The Collaborative, a Londonderry-based nonprofit organization that supports a substance-free youth.

In partnership with the nonprofit, the Bennington County Sheriff's Office set up the county's first drug disposal box in 2010.

A group convened by The Collaborative, called the Shires RX Alliance, has since worked to install boxes at the police departments in Bennington, Manchester and Winhall. There are also boxes at Southern Vermont Medical Center, The Pharmacy in Manchester and CVS in Bennington.

Only law enforcement agencies, pharmacies and medical centers with an in-house pharmacy are permitted to have permanent collection boxes, Morris said. The alliance strives to promote collection efforts and educate the community about the proper use and storage of prescription drugs.

To ensure the boxes' security, procedures guided by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration are put in place.

Laying out the policy and procedures was the most challenging part of the yearlong effort to get The Pharmacy's Bennington box installed, said Leake, who coordinated the project.

The Pharmacy has a security camera that hangs right above the disposal box. The metal box is bolted to the floor, and the slot where items are dropped is locked at the end of each business day.

The green box — which contains a lined cardboard box that catches the deposited medication — can be opened only with the use of two keys. One key is held by The Pharmacy and the other by the Bennington Police Department.

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Once the cardboard box is full, police come to seal it. It's then taken to an undisclosed site to be burned.

"The whole thing gets destroyed," Bennington Police Chief Paul Doucette said during the unveiling of the box at The Pharmacy in Bennington on Thursday. "No one opens the box to see what's inside."

"It's completely anonymous," Victoria Silsby, prevention specialist at The Collaborative, said. People who use the box can black out the names on their prescription bottles if this makes them feel more comfortable, she added.

Between 2018 and the present, approximately 2,700 pounds of medication have been collected through disposal boxes around the state, according to the Vermont Department of Health.

A grant from the department has helped medical centers and pharmacies set up their drug disposal boxes. Recipients include The Pharmacy in both Bennington and Manchester.

The Pharmacy in Bennington is expecting its disposal box to be filled every three to five weeks. This means bringing in a new cardboard and DEA-certified liner, a kit priced around $200, including the cost of shipping, drug disposal and online document management.

Phil O'Neill, owner of The Pharmacy, is hoping the disposal boxes will encourage more members of the public to drop off their unwanted medication.

"Nobody's going to question them," he said. "It's free and open." The boxes are accessible as long as the pharmacies are open.

CALL FOR SPONSORS

The Collaborative is looking for individuals and groups willing to sponsor the disposal box kits, so the cost won't discourage eligible locations from installing them. To contact The Collaborative, call (802) 824-4200 or email info@thecollaborative.us.

Michael Leake, who is willing to help other pharmacies develop their own drug disposal programs, can be reached at (802) 442-5602 or mleake@pharmacyinc.net.

Contact Tiffany Tan at ttan@benningtonbanner.com, @tiffgtan at Twitter and 802-447-7567 ext. 122.


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