BERLIN — Operation Medicine Drop (OMD), a countywide effort to safely dispose of expired and unneeded prescription drugs, was called a big success by everyone involved.
“We’re looking at doing this again in the fall,” said Katherine Gunby, the Public Information Officer for the Worcester County Health Department (WCHD).
According to Gunby, approximately 130 pounds of expired medications were collected Saturday between five drop-off points throughout Worcester.
She said, “130 pounds is great.”
Berlin Mayor Gee Williams added, “I’m pleased so many citizens took the time to scour their medicine cabinets.”
Williams personally visited the Berlin site and dropped off his expired medications for safe disposal.
“This is something where citizens can do their part,” he said.
According to Williams, the positive impact of OMD was two-fold — a reduction of potential drug abuse and every pill collected was one less that might have ended up in area waterways. He explained that the safe disposal of prescription medications meant it was less likely that the drugs would be sold or otherwise abused by people who were not intended to take them. Additionally, even with Berlin’s new, state-of-the-art water management plant, manmade drugs cannot be filtered out of sewage, and any that are flushed down the toilet or dropped in the sink can get into local creeks and rivers and cause harm to the ecosystem.
Kathy Phillips, the Assateague Coastkeeper and executive director of the Assateague Coastal Trust, echoed Williams’ points, and added that removing expired medications from homes also lessened the chance of accidental ingestion by a child.
“By providing a safe and secure way for people to get rid of unwanted medications, Operation Medicine Drop, part of the national drug-take back program sponsored by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), helps prevent accidental poisonings, drug abuse and helps protect our waters,” she said.
The abuse or accidental taking of medications was a major point of interest for DEA Special Agent David Rivello, who transported the drugs from the collection sites to an incinerator.
“Abuse of prescription medications and accidental ingestion is a growing danger within our communities; however, if I know that at least one child was saved from harm as a result of today’s efforts, I will be extremely happy,” he said.
Besides the reduction of medications being abused, accidentally ingested, or flushed into area waterways, Assateague Coastal Trust volunteer Dimitra Cushwa also reported seeing an additional benefit of the program.
“It was much more than keeping communities safe and waterways clean,” said Cushwa, “I felt it was cathartic for some people to dispose of these medicines from family members that had passed or recovered from illness.”
The top contributors were the Ocean Pines Food Lion, which was responsible for 75 pounds of medications; the Berlin Police Department, which brought in 21.5 pounds; the West Ocean City Food Lion that collected 21 pounds; and sites in near Snow Hill and Pocomoke that contributed about 12 pounds altogether.
The agencies involved are hoping to continue with the program and to offer it multiple times over the course of the year, possibly at different locations.
“We’d like to do it at least a couple of times a year,” said Williams.
Gunby agreed, and commented that she’d like to see OMD “keep the momentum going” by setting up another drop in the near future and then regularly after that.