Derry Police Chief Edward Garone knows the value of a statistic. “In New Hampshire, in 2011, 200 deaths were attributed to drug overdoses, and 166 of those were due to abuse of prescription drugs. But 90 people died of a motor vehicle accident,” he said. The stats are reflected in the town where he lives and works, he said, noting that “Locally, in 2012, we experienced five overdose deaths compared with two motor vehicle fatalities. And all five of the overdose deaths were from prescription drugs.
” The Derry Police and a local agency, Community Alliance for Teen Safety (CATS), partnered last week to make sure Derry residents have a safe and anonymous place to dispose of unwanted prescription drugs. Through the efforts of CATS director Sue Centner, a permanent prescription drug “take-back box” has been purchased and installed in the lobby of the Derry Police Department, 1 Municipal Drive.
Garone and Centner spoke on the issue at the Feb. 19 Town Council meeting and had a formal ribbon cutting for the box the next day, with police officers and the public attending. “This is a momentous occasion,” Garone said in the ceremony preceding the ribbon cutting. Garone said the Derry Police Department has held five National Drug Take Back Days in conjunction with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. A total of 637 pounds of prescription drugs have been removed from circulation due to the events, which were held at Hood Commons. Nationally, in the five previous Take-Back events, the DEA and local law enforcement have collected more than 2 million pounds.
The take back box is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The service is free and anonymous, Garone said. He wrote in a press release, “Medicines that languish in home medicine cabinets are highly susceptible to diversion, misuse and abuse.” He quoted a 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health that showed 70 percent of people who used prescription pain relievers non medically obtained them from family or friends. The usual methods of disposing of the drugs flushing down the toilet or dropping in the trash are no longer recommended, Garone said, explaining, “They are potentially safety and health hazards.”
Centner said CATS has been following the same research, “and it has frightening, tragic consequences. We are pleased to be able to support the Derry Police Department.” She cited the Derry Police’s previous work with the Take-Back days, and said, “Most people are grateful for the opportunity to get these drugs out of their homes.”
Town Administrator John Anderson also spoke briefly before the ribbon-cutting. The take-back box cost $2,000 and was paid for through a Drug Free Communities grant. At the Council meeting, Councilor Phyllis Katsakiores asked if people should scratch their names off the bottles. Garone said it wasn’t necessary and detailed the process for disposing of the drugs. Once the container is full, it is sealed with evidence tape, with two officers present, and eventually incinerated.
Garone emphasized that the bin is for prescription drugs, not marijuana or other street drugs. He said there is a separate container in the lobby for “sharps” or drug syringes, which is also free, anonymous and available 24-7.
asked if the container would replace the Take-Back events. “We’ll have to see,” Garone said, adding that a Take-Back Day was scheduled for April 27 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Hood
Councilor David Milz