By SHAUN SAVARESE
Of The Record Staff
Erwin commissioners authorized the town manager to write a letter of support on behalf of the police department to apply for a free drug drop-off box from CVS.
Erwin Town Manager Snow Bowden’s request stated that police have recently arrested numerous people for drug-related offenses.
“In the current environment there has been a push to do something about the opioid epidemic,” Mr. Bowden wrote.
The request stated that the department wants to apply for a grant to the drugstore CVS to obtain a drug drop-off box at no cost to the town.
“The boxes are primarily used for people to drop off old medicine that they no longer need but any kind of drug can be dropped off in the box,” Mr. Bowden wrote, also stating the box would be emptied every month.
CVS/pharmacy has teamed with The Partnership at Drugfree. org to create this community donation program through which local police departments can apply to receive a drug collection unit to help their communities safely dispose of unwanted medications, including controlled substances.
Mr. Bowden said the Harnett County Sheriff’s Office has a prescription medication drop-off box. “I forgot how many pounds of medicine they said they get dumped in there per year … but it’s a lot,” he said.
Erwin Board Member Billy Turnage asked where the box might be located, and if it will be mounted and secured. “If you got drugs in there, everybody’s going to know it,” Mr. Turnage said.
“It is. Yes, sir,” replied Mr. Bowden. “A fair amount of town halls have them.”
Erwin Police Chief Jonathan Johnson took the podium following the commissioners second question, about emptying the box monthly and the process of disposing of the drugs.
“Once we take the medication out of the drop box and we place them into evidence, as we get enough evidence gathered, we get a destruction order,” Chief Johnson said, “It all has to go and get destroyed. We get a destruction order, which is signed by a judge, saying that we can destroy it. At that point we will bring it and destroy it as evidence.”
Chief Johnson said officers will bring the drugs to a secure area, dig a hole and burn them. The hole will then be filled. This process is recorded.
Commissioners Turnage and Randy Baker were impressed with the chief and the department’s initiative to get rid of drugs; prescription and illegal. “Chief Johnson I applaud you,” said Mr. Baker, “For taking every step you can to get drugs off the street.”
Mr. Baker attended the Harnett County Leadership Forum on Opioid Abuse on Sept. 20. He said he was not aware how serious the opioid issue is until he heard how many cases of drug abuse begin with prescriptions. He said he appreciates the department, and is in support of this effort.
Commissioner Ricky Blackmon made a motion to authorize the letter of support, written by the town manager; Frankie Ballard seconded it. The motion carried unanimously.
Harnett County Sheriff’s Lt. Aaron Meredith said the drug drop-off box at his office has accumulated more than 325 pounds of medication since March.
The drop-off box at the sheriff’s office has been in place for three years, and it has facilitated the collection of more than 700 pounds of prescription drugs. It was donated by Project Lazarus and sits within the lobby of the sheriff’s office, accessible weekdays from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m.
“People can walk right in the door, put it in and leave,” Lt. Meredith said.
The medication is destroyed once a year, during poison control week in March.
Lt. Meredith said the pills and liquids are collected by the State Bureau of Investigation and then incinerated.
He said pain management medication is commonly collected from those who have recently passed away, calling those kinds of drugs, dangerous in the wrong hands.
“When I see narcotics,” he said. “I look at them and think those are narcotics that won’t end up in a middle school.”
DEA Drug Take Back Day
Robert J. Higdon Jr., U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of N.C., and William F. Baxley, assistant special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Charlotte district office, announced that Americans nationwide did their part to reduce the opioid crisis by bringing the DEA and its more than 4,200 local and tribal law enforcement partners a record-setting 912,305 pounds — 456 tons — of potentially dangerous expired, unused and unwanted prescription drugs for disposal at more than 5,300 collection sites.
This brings the total amount of prescription drugs collected by DEA since the fall of 2010 to 9 million pounds, or 4,508 tons.
All were collected at return sites set up by the DEA in the Eastern District of North Carolina. DEA’s next Prescription Drug Take Back Day is April 28, 2018.