24/7 unwanted medication, sharps collection programs available to residents

by Town Reminder

Unwanted medication, sharps collection program a success
Dually protecting environment, young children

By Kristin Will
Staff Writer, kwill@turley.com

SOUTH HADLEY – A program that, in many local towns, is only offered once or twice a year is available for South Hadley residents 24/7. The Residential Unwanted Medications Collection Program allows residents to safely rid themselves of old, unwanted medication by simply bringing them to the South Hadley Police Station.
Fairly new to the community, the program, implemented by the Board of Health, not only helps residents but the environment as well. In the past, unwanted medications were tossed in the trash, left in landfills and flushed down toilets. This caused those medications to leach into the environment, eventually finding their way back into the food supply. “Studies have proven that it is affecting our waterways and our wildlife and even our children,” said Board of Health Director Sharon Hart. “ It’s showing up as an estrogen mimic.” Additionally, simply keeping the unwanted medications in a family cabinet posed a potential threat of accidental or intention ingestion by those who should not be taking them.
Sanitation workers, janitors and housekeepers were also put at risk to the transmission of infectious diseases such as HIV or Hepatitis C through medical sharps, such as needles, lancets and syringes that were tossed in the trash or otherwise improperly discarded.
The Unwanted Medications Collection Program, as well as The Unwanted Sharps Collection Program, are both free. The Unwanted Medications Program is available 24/7 to residents, while the Unwanted Sharps Program has select hours during which residents can drop off their sharps.
Participation is simple. Residents should black out or remove any personal information on their medication container. However, they are asked to leave information about the medication they are discarding intact on the bottle. Next, residents should bring the unwanted medications to the South Hadley Police Station, located at 41 Bridge Street in South Hadley Falls. Inside the station to the right of the information desk is an area designated for the collection of the unwanted medication. All that residents need to do is simply drop the medications into the allotted slot.
Sharps are not collected in this way. To dispose of needles, lancets and syringes, residents are asked to visit either the Department of Public Works [DPW] Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., the Recycling Center on Saturday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. or the Council on Aging on Thursdays from 1 to 3 p.m. At these locations, residents can obtain sharps containers in quart and gallon sizes free of charge. Once their sharps container is full, residents may drop it off at those same locations.
The unwanted medication bin at the police station is monitored weekly by a Board of Health official. Once enough medication is collected, it is taken to a location in Springfield where it is burned by a company called Covanta, which provides this service free to South Hadley. The collected medication transport and burn is required to be supervised by a police officer. The last drop-off of unwanted medication collected over a two-month period weighed approximately 250 pounds.
“I think it’s a great thing,” said Hart of the program. “We’ve had great, great success.”
South Hadley Police Chief David LaBrie agreed, calling the program’s goals “two-fold,” with it benefiting the environment and protecting children.
Inspired by South Hadley’s initiative for unwanted medication and sharp programs, towns and cities such as Greenfield and Chicopee are looking to begin similar programs.
The Unwanted Medication Collection Program is happening year-round, 24/7. The South Hadley Police station can be contacted by calling (413) 538-8231. The Unwanted Sharps program is also year-round, with set hours for drop off at the DPW Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., the Recycling Center on Satruday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. or the Council on Aging on Thursdays from 1 to 3 p.m. The Board of Health can be reached at (413) 538-5017 ext. 204
There are restrictions as to what can be collected, such as chemotherapy agents and IV bags, which are not allowed. For a full list, contact the Board of Health or pick up a pamphlet at the police station.