ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WIVB) – Erie County is facing a growing opiate epidemic that continues to claim lives, but several county agencies are working together to fight back by keeping unwanted prescription drugs from falling into the wrong hands.
The Erie County Sheriff’s Office joined the Erie County Health Commissioner and local legislative leaders Tuesday morning to discuss the county’s growing drug drop-off program.
Since 2013, the Erie County Sheriff’s Office has collected and safely destroyed more than 15 tons of unwanted prescription medications and 4.5 tons of syringes, including about 1.6 tons of medications collected in just the last five weeks.
The latest collection was hauled away from the Sheriff’s Office’s storage facility in Chestnut Ridge Park Tuesday morning. All of the medications are taken to an incineration facility in Niagara County that is licensed by the Department of Environmental Conservation. The pills, patches, creams, inhalers, and more are burned and turned into usable energy. Syringes and sharps are taken to a medical waste facility to be disposed of.
All of this keeps unwanted medications out of landfills, out of the water supply, and out of the hands of people who may seek to abuse them. “Unwanted, unused, unnecessary drugs, legally prescribed medicines, continue to be a problem, both showing up in the street in the illicit drug market, and occasional accidents with children consuming them, taking them from a medicine cabinet,” Sheriff Timothy Howard explained.
So, the county continues to expand its drug-drop off program. It started with just 13 different drop-off sites, but has now grown to 26 locations. The Sheriff announced Tuesday that locations are also being added in the Wales and Boston municipal buildings soon.
County leaders say this is one of the most important services Erie County offers. “With the opiate crisis going on in our country, as well as, of course, our region, it’s very important that we get out of medicine cabinets unused opiate based drugs,” said Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz.
“Although we may not be able to quantify it, hopefully it’s something that has saved lives and will continue to save lives in the future,” added Erie County Legislator Ted Morton, who serves the Chair of the Energy and Environment committee.
County leaders have touted the drug drop-off program for its benefits for public health and for protecting the environment. Municipal water systems are unable to filter out most prescription drugs that are flushed down toilets, so many chemicals can end up in the drinking water supply.
You can find a full list of drug drop off locations administered by the Erie County Sheriff’s office on the Erie County Health Department website.
Several other local agencies administer their own programs, under the supervision of the DEA.
Find a list of places where you can get rid of unwanted drugs here.