BERLIN — With the addition of Ocean City to the roster of communities involved in Worcester County’s Operation Medicine Drop (OMD), organizers are hoping to double the 130 pounds of medications collected by the event last spring.
“This is an outstanding program,” said Worcester County Sherriff Reggie Mason. “It was started locally by the Town of Berlin, then last year our office became involved and now I see the Town of Ocean City will have a dedicated drop off location so I’m excited and hopeful a larger take back will happen this Saturday, helping to keep our households and streets safer.”
Now entering its third year, the goals of OMD have remained constant, though the program has steadily expanded. In an effort to keep potentially dangerous drugs off the streets and out of area waterways, Berlin first hosted an OMD with the intent of providing a safe place to dispose of any expired or otherwise unwanted medications.
“There are lots of different stories [about the medications],” said Assateague Coastkeeper Kathy Phillips.
The event is a collaboration between county and local law enforcement, the Worcester County Health Department (WCHD), the Assateague Coastal Trust (ACT), the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), and other groups, all with the goal of safely disposing of excess medications. It is part of a larger, nationwide effort to get rid of unwanted drugs and has been especially endorsed at the state level, with this weekend being declared “Clean Out Your Medicine Cabinet Weekend” in Maryland.
"Preventing the abuse of prescription drugs – one of the fastest growing drug problems in Maryland – is a big part of our strategy to protect our families," said Gov. Martin O’Malley. "We encourage all Marylanders to clean out their medicine cabinets and check on loved ones and neighbors battling addiction. Together, we can educate every community in our State about the damaging effects of abuse and provide the knowledge that is essential to the health and well-being of our people."
Though the Worcester OMD does not have any type of official medication tracking system in place, Phillips noted from her own observations of various drop-off sites that things like painkillers and expired over-the-counter drugs seem to be the most prevalent. Whatever the medication, said Phillips, it is safer for the community to drop it off at one of the half dozen designated sites around the county instead of leaving it to age in a medicine cabinet, throwing it out in the garbage, or flushing it down the toilet.
“Most people do not realize that when they flush unused medications down the toilet or down the sink, these pharmaceuticals are not removed at the sewage plant, but instead pass through into our waterways,” Phillips said.
Likewise, police warn that tossing out expired or unwanted medication in the garbage could lead to it being taken and abused by someone other than the holder of the prescription. And leaving old or unused medication in the house holds dangers as well, especially in households with young children. Preventing poisoning through accidental ingestion, most often in children, is a major concern.
With Ocean City jumping on board this fall, Phillips expects the program to bring in more medication than ever before. In order to raise awareness about OMD in the county, Phillips revealed that everything from posters to posts on popular social networking sites have gone up to promote the event. She also hopes that word of mouth from last April’s successful drop will add fuel to the movement.
From the WCHD perspective, Public Affairs and Special Projects Director Katherine Gunby was also enthusiastic about how far OMD has come in the last few years.
“We’re excited to be able to collaborate with other agencies for this again,” she said, adding that WCHD was also happy to offer two sites as medication drop-off points.
While Gunby stressed how important the biannual OMD projects are for clearing out medicine cabinets, she did mention the desire to see something permanent in place to offer a year-round option for people wishing to dispose of unused or unwanted drugs. Right now, however, she said that she was impressed by how many partners are coming on board to take place in the initiative.
Phillips agreed and said that with the Ocean City Police Department joining the team, nearly every related agency in the county has become part of OMD.
Taking place Saturday, Oct. 29 from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m., OMD will feature six drop off points in Worcester County — Pocomoke Health Center, Snow Hill Health Department, Berlin Police Department, Food Lion on Route 611 in West Ocean City, Food Lion on Manklin Creek Rd. in Ocean Pines and the Public Safety Building at 6501 Coastal Highway in Ocean City.