New drop boxes fight the opioid epidemic, one prescription bottle at a time

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Members and staff of the Snohomish Health District were joined by elected and government officials at a Tuesday afternoon ribbon-cutting commemorating the installation of the newest prescription drug drop-off box in the Edmonds Police Department lobby.

The first of three sites in Edmonds to give people a safe and convenient way to dispose of unused prescription and over-the-counter medications, the drop-off box is a front-line strategy in the countywide effort to stem the rising tide of opioid addiction in our communities. The goal is simple: reduce easy access to powerful painkillers and other medications.

“We’re absolutely in the middle of a public health epidemic with opioids,” said Jeff Ketchel, Snohomish Health District Interim Administrator. “Young people are particularly vulnerable, and for many their first access to these drugs is in the family medicine cabinet. Whatever can be done to get prescription painkillers out of the medicine cabinet and safely disposed of means less opportunity for someone to start down the road of opioid addiction.”

This thinking was reflected by Edmonds City Councilmember and current chair of the Snohomish Health District, Adrienne Fraley-Monillas, who said that “addressing the opioid crisis in our communities is priority one.”

This latest drop-off box will be joined by two others in Edmonds, with more coming throughout the county this summer. “Three to five drop boxes will be added every day with 25 of the kiosks expected to be operating throughout the county by mid-August at pharmacies and police stations,” said Snohomish Health District spokesperson Heather Thomas.

The MED-Project website has officially launched in English and Spanish, along with the toll-free number 844-MED-PROJ (844-633-7765). As each kiosk is installed, the website will be updated with location information and hours of operation.

The idea of drop-off boxes isn’t new, but funding changes promise to make them more effective than ever.

“There’s been a drop-off box in the Edmonds PD lobby for quite some time,” said Ketchel. “It was very popular and well-used, but it was funded by the county. These new boxes are paid for by the pharmaceutical industry under new laws recently adopted by Snohomish, Kitsap, King and Pierce Counties.”

The other two Edmonds drop-off box locations that will open soon include Edmonds QFC Pharmacy at 22828 100th Ave. W. and  Edmonds Family Pharmacy, 7315 212th St. S.W., Ste 100.

State Rep. Strom Peterson, D-Edmonds, hopes to extend this idea statewide. Earlier this year he introduced House Bill 1047 that would to start a statewide medication collection system, and would be funded by the pharmaceutical industry. While the bill didn’t pass this year, Peterson plans to try again.

“All too often we find ourselves dealing reactively with this problem,” Peterson said. “These drop-off sites are a way to stop the problem before it starts by simply removing access to these drugs by getting them out of the home and disposed of properly.”

— Story and photos by Larry Vogel

6 COMMENTS

  1. This is a great idea — I actually have a few bottles sitting in my medicine cabinet that I have (or had) no clue what to do with.

  2. I assume the police would find it quite amusing to have someone come into the station to try to pry the dropbox open. It would save them a bit of driving if nothing else.

  3. The boxes are indeed made from steel to discourage any attempts to steal the contents, but what may be even more important is that they are located in places that are monitored and secured. The one at the PD is inside its lobby in the public part of the area where the Police Clerks work. I cannot speak to the other locations, but I know the PD has video monitoring that covers this location as well. Also, a person is not allowed simply to open the box and unload without clearly identifying what they intend to leave, and that gets logged into an entry book that names everything going into the box. So, yes, I think they have the bases covered for both deposits and withdrawals, and it’s safe to say these units are not self-serve.

  4. Interesting — what’s the rationale behind making people identify what they are leaving? I assume 99% of the time both their name and the drug is going to be on the bottle they’re dropping off. That seems a little intrusive… I’m sure most of this stuff ends up in the garbage or flushed down toilets, it seems like we should make it as easy as possible.

    • My take is that it’s part of overall control as well as the chain of custody effect. Knowing what’s been left in the boxes is key to keeping anyone associated with the disposal along the way from diverting what otherwise would be unknown if it went missing. If it’s not tracked, it cannot be guaranteed to have been disposed, and there are enough examples that even law enforcement personnel can repurpose seized or surrendered drugs. Plus, whoever operates the incinerator into which this stuff goes likely wants to know what’s hitting the chutes.

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