According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, some 1.9 million youth between the ages of 12 and 17 abuse prescription drugs, with 1.6 million abusing prescription pain medication.
“We’ve seen an increased use of these medications in our youth [over the last several years],” said Cicero Police Chief Joseph Snell. “Many people just leave them in a cabinet or a cupboard some place. Most people don’t even know what they have. Kids can just take them out of there. They are prescription drugs. Many are controlled substances, and they can be addictive.”
The Cicero Police Department has come up with a solution to limit such abuse. The department is now home to a MedReturn box in which town residents can drop off expired or unused prescription drugs any time from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. The drug collection unit is produced by MedReturn, LLC of Grafton, Wis. The box is located in the police department’s administrative offices at 8236 Brewerton Road, behind Town Hall. Drugs should be placed in a clear plastic bag. The department cannot take liquids or needles. As the box fills up, the CPD will clear it out and remove the drugs to their evidence room. When the DEA does its giveback program twice a year, the department will turn them over for safe destruction.
“We want to take these medications off the market so that our youth can’t get a hold of them,” Snell said. “They’re our most vulnerable population that we have. They abuse these medications. If we get them out of the homes and get them into our care, hopefully we can reduce dependence on these medications.”
The idea came from John Krider, a member of Cicero’s Volunteers in Police Services, a program that allows trained volunteers to perform a number of police services townwide, including residential security checks for residents on vacation, business security checks after closing hours, traffic control for special events, vehicle accidents and other emergencies, crime prevention and community awareness programs, bicycle registrations, children fingerprinting, assist in neighborhood watch activities, conduct neighborhood canvas when a crime has occurred in the area, routine neighborhood patrol and other activities as assigned by the Cicero Police Department. The program has 25 volunteers.
Krider said he saw a MedReturn box while on a trip to the Midwest and immediately thought of bringing it to the town of Cicero.
“When I saw the box I could think, ‘Oh, why don’t we have things like that where I live?’ Heaven knows there’s enough of that type of mentality around,” Krider said. “But because of the time that I’ve been a volunteer here, I know the receptiveness of our local government, especially our police department, to new ideas and new things that benefit our community.”
So Krider took down the information on the box and brought it up with Snell and the town board. Snell reached out to the Kinney Drug Foundation to ask for their help in bringing a MedReturn box to Cicero.
“Kinney’s has four stores in the town of Cicero. We’ve had a great relationship with them over the years. Every year, at drug giveback time, we participate with them, putting officers in the stores to take the drugs back and then turn them over to the DEA,” Snell said. “Kinney’s has a foundation, and we naturally thought of Kinney’s since they’ve been very proactive in assisting us in this endeavor. We sent a letter to them asking if they’d be interested in funding this program, and they were.”
Residents are encouraged to drop off any unused medications in the box. However, if seniors are homebound and unable to get to the police station, Snell said they can still take advantage of the program.
“Any senior that can’t come to the police department, can’t get a ride up there, we’ll send a police officer to their residence,” Snell said. “All they have to do is call the Cicero Police Department, and we’ll send an officer out there to collect their unused medications and put them in the MedReturn box.”
According to Cicero Senior Advocate Diane Browning, it’s especially important for seniors to get rid of their unused medications to keep them from being abused.
“I’ve found that a lot more seniors are bringing up their grandchildren or babysitting their grandchildren during the day,” Browning said. “They’re not thinking about it, and they’re keeping the drugs in the cupboard and kids can get at them.”
For more information about the program or to schedule an appointment with an officer for a homebound senior, contact the Cicero Police Department at 699-3677 ext. 20.
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club's Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.