Drop off prescription drugs anonymously at Fridley PD

Local residents can now dispose of unwanted or expired unused prescription drugs at the Fridley Police Department by dropping medications in a take-back box in the FPD lobby, open every day in the lower level of City Hall. The first day the box was open for drop offs was Feb. 5.

This drop-off box is the third of its kind in Anoka County, following boxes at the Anoka County Sheriff’s Office in Andover and the Columbia Heights Public Safety Department. The Sheriff’s Office is working with the St. Francis Police Department to place a drug take-back box at the department, as well. Even without drop boxes, if police departments collect prescription drugs, those can be gathered by the Sheriff’s Office for disposal.

From left, Anoka County Sheriff James Stuart, Kiwanis President Dale Schuetz, Fridley Police Chief Don Abbott, Kiwanis Secretary/Treasurer Kathy Welle and Kiwanis former president Dan Thompson pose Feb. 7 with the newly installed prescription drug drop-off box, made possible with a partnership between the Anoka County Sheriff’s Office, the Fridley Police Department and the Columbia Heights/Fridley Kiwanis Club. (Sun staff photo by Sarah Peterson)

From left, Anoka County Sheriff James Stuart, Kiwanis President Dale Schuetz, Fridley Police Chief Don Abbott, Kiwanis Secretary/Treasurer Kathy Welle and Kiwanis former president Dan Thompson pose Feb. 7 with the newly installed prescription drug drop-off box, made possible with a partnership between the Anoka County Sheriff’s Office, the Fridley Police Department and the Columbia Heights/Fridley Kiwanis Club. (Sun staff photo by Sarah Peterson)

Instructions, as well as lists of what is and is not accepted, are posted on and above the drop-off receptacle. Those dropping off drugs don’t have to check in at the department desk or present identification to drop off medications. Drugs should be transported to the box in the original prescription container. Those wanting to avoid having their names associated with the drugs that are being dropped off can transfer the medication to a clear, plastic, resealable bag available at the drop box and dispose of the pharmacy container and label themselves.

The drop-off box is offered in a cooperative effort between the Fridley Police Department and the Anoka County Sheriff’s Office, and it was sponsored in part by the Columbia Heights/Fridley Kiwanis Club.

“The drop box idea’s something the sheriff started,” said Fridley Police Chief Don Abbott. “And it made way too much sense. But you have to have a secure environment – it has to be accessible yet secure. I mean, it’s a good, heavy steel box, (anchored into the floor with a security camera pointed at it) but if it’s not in the lobby of a police department, I mean, they will (be at risk for theft), so you have to have the right place.” Abbott noted that at most times, there is also a Police Department employee at the desk with the drop box in their sight.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has been encouraging efforts by local law agencies to hold drug take-back events for the past two or three years, Abbott said. According to the DEA, non-medical use of prescription drugs ranks second only to marijuana as the most common form of drug abuse in the U.S., and the majority of teenagers abusing these drugs get them from family, friends and the home medicine cabinet.

Drugs such as these, law enforcement officials say, can become gateway drugs for youth who don’t perceive prescription drugs as dangerous, because they are not the drugs they hear about the most. So youth experiment with different prescription drugs they find, get hooked on taking these unnecessary medications and then move on to street drugs like heroin, which officials say they are seeing a resurgence of in drug abuse. On the other hand, if not properly disposed of, chemicals from prescription medication can get into the water system and contaminate the environment.

Recently, the local Kiwanis Club heard from a Hennepin County representative who talked about the need to get these prescription drugs out of household cabinets to prevent abuse and protect the environment. As a response, the local Kiwanis Club approached a Police Department liaison to discuss take-back efforts and provided a monetary donation, and the department and Sheriff’s Office collaborated to bring a drop-off box to the Fridley Police Department’s lobby.

“The timing couldn’t have been better,” Abbott said. “The timing was perfect.”

Previously, residents had the opportunity to drop off prescription medications through the city’s recycling drop off days, and the Police Department received more than 100 pounds of drugs in 2012’s two recycling drop offs events. Abbott said those had been the first local opportunities for a drug take-back, so residents were likely clearing out medications that had been waiting for disposal for several years.

“Now they can keep current on the disposal of medications,” he said. Abbott said he would encourage residents to drop off medications at the department’s box as soon as they’re done with them rather than waiting months for the next city recycling drop-off event.

This also means that drugs won’t be available in homes’ cabinets, targets for abuse or even thefts, he added.

“The main public safety focus is getting drugs that are likely to be abused out of the home so people can’t just take it out of mom and dad’s or grandpa and grandma’s cabinet,” Abbott said.

“About 2,500 kids abuse prescription drugs for the first time (to get high) every day and then that’s a gateway drug to other illegal narcotics,” Sheriff James Stuart added. “Hopefully, there’s a lot of … good to come from all of it.”

“Anything we can do to break that cycle,” Fridley Police Capt. Bob Rewitzer said.

Kiwanis Secretary/Treasurer Kathy Welle said she wants to share the news of this take-back effort with other Kiwanis clubs to share the idea of sponsoring drop-off boxes in other communities.

The Fridley Police Department lobby hours are 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends; the drop-off box will be accessible during these times and will be emptied regularly for safe drug disposal by incineration. The department is in the lower level of the Fridley Municipal Center, 6431 University Ave. N.E.

The following items are not accepted at the drop box:

- over-the-counter medications (most of which can be thrown in the garbage)

- liquids (such as ampoules, vials or IV bags)

- sharps (such as needles, lancets or syringes)

- fever thermometers

- medical supplies (such as bandages or medical tape)

- medical devices

Medications delivered by businesses, health care facilities, long-term care facilities, pharmaceutical representatives, pharmacies, doctors’ offices or veterinary clinics are not accepted.

Info: 763-572-3629 (Fridley Police Department).

 

Contact Sarah Peterson at sarah.peterson@ecm-inc.com

 
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