DuPage making it easier to dispose of old medications, even picking them up


A decade after starting a prescription drug drop-off program, DuPage County is making it even easier for residents to dispose of unwanted, unused or expired medications.

Sheriff James Mendrick on Tuesday announced his department will start picking up medications from homes in unincorporated parts of DuPage. The program is available to residents who are physically unable to reach one of the county's drug take-back locations.

In addition, the sheriff's office is handing out drug deactivation bags for free at its headquarters in Wheaton. The 3,000 pouches, which were donated to the department, are used to dispose of unwanted medications by simply adding water.

"What we want to do is offer a vast array of options for pharmaceutical disposal so we can get substances with the potential for abuse off the playing field," Mendrick said.

The new efforts were announced during a news conference hosted by the county's Heroin/Opioid Prevention and Education Taskforce. The joint operation of the county board and board of health comprehensively assesses opioid use and recommends policies, initiatives and programs to battle the epidemic.

"We've really been taking a multi-sectoral approach to how we respond to the needs of our community -- all who have an interest in ending the opioid epidemic," said Greg Hart, a county board member and co-chairman of the task force.

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One area examined by the group is how to reduce access to drugs.

The health department began a countywide drug take-back program in 2009 as a way to keep medicines from landfills and waterways, officials said. Now the main focus is to prevent drugs from being misused or abused.

State's Attorney Robert Berlin said research shows four out of five heroin users began their addiction with prescription drugs.

"We know from experience that when people are done using their medication, they keep them," Berlin said. "They put them in the medicine cabinet, and they get into the wrong hands. And that's what starts the addiction for so many people,"

Hart said the task force understands government can't solve the problem alone.

"We must find every opportunity to partner with the private sector to eliminate the supply of unused prescription medication," he said.

Officials said CVS Health and Walgreens both have increased the number of drug take-back locations at their stores in DuPage.

CVS Health soon will have in-store safe medication disposal units at four of its stores. Walgreens, meanwhile, has safe medications disposal kiosks at five of its stores.

The news conference came hours after the county board proclaimed Saturday, April 27, to be "DuPage Prescription Drug Take Back Day" to coincide with the national drug take-back effort.

"We are certainly not the only county to grapple with the heroin addiction and death crisis," county board Chairman Dan Cronin said. "But together, we will not rest until we see measurable results, including reductions in the supply and demand for these deadly drugs."

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