PLATTSBURGH — A new community medication collection bin offers a place to conveniently dispose of unused prescription medications as easily as dropping mail in a slot.
The bright blue 38-gallon steel bin is located at the University of Vermont Health Network, Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital Outpatient Pharmacy, which is located adjacent to the Emergency Department.
“There are several things going on right now in the environment that we would want to have in the take-back box that we have,” said Preston Sellars, a registered pharmacist and the hospital's retail pharmacy director.
“One is drug diversion. Getting (unused medications) out of circulation means we can have a positive impact on drug diversion. As far as safety, too, any families where you had a medication, say you had surgery and there was some medicine left over, you're able to get rid of it safely. No children or anyone (else) can accidentally consume that medicine.”
Improper drug disposal raises environmental concerns, such as groundwater contamination, which could affect the water supply.
The Foundation of CVPH provided the start-up funding for the bin.
“The Outpatient Pharmacy here is going to continue the maintenance of it,” Sellars said.
“So what happens on a monthly basis, we actually get with security and we securely package up what's been deposited and it goes to a secure facility that can destroy it. And, it will be in an environmentally good way.”
The receptacle uses MedSafe containers, which are specially designed to prevent access to the medications after they have been deposited, according to a press release.
The bin holds a specially designed liner, which, when full, will be removed from the bin and securely transported to a facility for destruction.
CVPH is among a myriad of collaborators in Substance Abuse Prevention and Recovery of Clinton County (SPARCC), which locally combats the opioid crises.
“Removing unused controlled medications, especially opioids, from our communities, is one more thing we can do to help fight the North Country’s opioid crisis,” said CVPH Director of Pharmacy Michael Garvey.
The hospital’s Emergency Department is currently one of the few in the state to offer Narcan kits to patients and loved ones.
The kits contain naloxone, a drug used to reverse the effects of a heroin (or other opiates) and the materials needed to safely administer it, according to a press release.
With the addition of the hospital's bin, there are now three depositories in the Plattsburgh area.
One is located at the Clinton County Sheriff’s Department, and the second at the Plattsburgh City Police Department.
“Which can be an intimidating factor for some people — they would rather take care of it some other way,” Sellars said.
“Not that there's any reason to fear it but they just kind of have that hesitation, so it's nice because this is a much more accessible, nonthreatening environment to return them.
"It tends to be more in your mind because you're like, 'I'm going to pick up my prescriptions. Oh, what am I going to do with these other ones that I have that I want to get rid of, and I haven't done it, and this is a great time for me to do it.'”
The Outpatient Pharmacy is open from 7 a.m. To 11 p.m. every day of the year, including holidays.
“We're a very accessible Outpatient Pharmacy,” Sellars said.
“Pharmacists, in general, tend to be a great resource for patients. They tend to be the first line.
"Patients can ask a pharmacist a question and not get to the doctor. So there's a lot of that initial contact that happens," Sellars continued.
"We're also a place where people tend to come back and say, 'I got these medicines six months ago. I only took half of them. What can I do with it?' So, we're often the people to give advice of the best way to dispose of it.”
MAKING A DIFFERENCEThe two-week-old bin is filling with medication deposits.
“It's already had a positive impact that way,” Sellars said.
“Normally, disposing of medicines, you would throw most medicines, non-controlled — you throw them in the garbage but you put them in with kitty litter or coffee grounds, something to hopefully deter people.
"But a controlled substance, it's still normally recommended to flush rather than to throw in conventional garbage because often (with) drug diversion, people involved in it are pretty desperate and will do just about anything to use it.”
The bin can receive most medications.
Exceptions are needles and illicit drugs.
“Liquids have some limitations as to how much is supposed to be put in,” Sellars said.
Email Robin Caudell: