ELKHART — In its first month, a new drug take-back program collected 168 pounds of unused prescription and over-the-counter medications in Elkhart County.
The Elkhart County Drug-Free Partnership has joined forces with local police departments to offer a year-round program that allows people to throw away medications that they are no longer using.
“Part of the problem is that people have unused medications in their possession that they don’t keep track of or they get rid of them in ways they shouldn’t, like flushing them, so we made that our mission to get those off the street, to get them out of peoples’ homes and give every citizen a way to get rid of those drugs safely,” said Jessica Koscher, a co-coordinator for the program.
The program started in February, and Koscher said she is still tallying up the total medications collected in March. Elkhart County Triad, an alliance between law enforcement and senior citizens, led a similar program that collected medications biannually. The program brought in close to 2,000 pounds of drugs each year. Koscher hopes to collect just as much, if not more, by offering the program throughout the year and educating people on how to safely store their medications.
The county’s drug-free partnership was created more than 20 years ago as part of the Governor’s Commission for a Drug-Free Indiana. Each of the state’s 92 counties has a coalition that works to reduce the abuse of alcohol, tobacco and drugs. Koscher said the local partnership based its mission on the top substances being abused in Elkhart County, including alcohol, marijuana and methamphetamine.
“Those were no brainers,” Koscher said. “We also looked at prescription drug abuse and the impact of that across the nation. We thought it’s probably here too, but we might not understand the impact at this time.”
Sean Holmes, undersheriff with the county’s sheriff’s department, said there are problems in Elkhart County with people stealing medications, like pain relievers, from family members, neighbors and seniors for recreational use. But the sheriff’s department does not necessarily get a lot of reports about thefts, he noted.
“A lot of times, they just take enough that you wouldn’t even notice that there are medications missing,” Holmes said.
The partnership bought green drop boxes for local police departments to collect medications. There are seven locations throughout the county, including one in the sheriff’s department’s corrections lobby.
“We put it there so it would be open longer, seven days a week,” Holmes said. “I think people worry about coming to the corrections facility because they think they have to go through the secure part, but they don’t have to go through our security checks. They can just go ahead and drop them off and leave.”
The drop boxes are not limited to prescription and over-the-counter medications. Vitamins, sample medication packets and drugs for pets are also accepted.
“We’ll even take illegal drugs, no questions asked,” Koscher said.
Items not allowed at the drop-off locations include inhalers, aerosol cans, liquids, needles, thermometers and hydrogen peroxide.
Koscher said the partnership is still working out details on what to do with the medications collected. For now, the drugs are being securely stored at the sheriff’s department.
WHERE TO FIND MEDICATION DROP BOXES
Bristol Police Department: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Elkhart County Sheriff’s Department: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Elkhart Police Department: 24/7
Nappanee Police Department: 24/7
Goshen Police Department: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., weekdays
Indiana State Toll Road Station: 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Wakarusa Police Department: Hours vary daily