Morrison County residents will soon have another safe and easy way to get rid of unused and unwanted medications.
Morrison County Sheriff Shawn Larsen and Little Falls Police Chief Greg Schirmers recently collaborated in securing a $100,000 Comprehensive Secure Responsible Drug Disposal grant through the Institute for Intergovernmental Research. Funding for the grant program was provided by the U.S. Department of Justice.
The grant includes two drug disposal cabinets, one thru-wall cabinet, 87 cases of Deterra — a medication disposal system made for in-home use — and 93 multipurpose, Deterra 2.5 gallon containers for large-quantity disposal.
“Obviously, we’re assisting the community in properly disposing of unused and unwanted medications; and to help combat our substance abuse problems in our communities,” Larsen said.
Perhaps the most convenient of all the new products will be the Deterra pouches for in-home use. During the many public appearances local law enforcement agencies make throughout the year — such as at community events like the Morrison County Fair and drug takebacks — pouches will be made available, no questions asked. They will also be available at area law enforcement offices, free of charge.
Larsen said, in order to use the pouches, one only has to place up to 45 pills in the pouch and follow the directions.
“What happens is, there’s like a charcoal pod in there that you add water to, and it dissolves within minutes,” he said. “So, if people take this home and they put their pills in and they read the instructions and do everything they’re supposed to and then seal it, within a matter of minutes, the pills will be inert; the active ingredient is killed.”
An indicator on the pouch will let the user know when it is full. Once the medications have been deactivated, they can simply be disposed of in the trash.
Schirmers and Larsen were recently reminded of the need for convenient methods of prescription medication disposal. During a drug takeback event on April 24, local law enforcement collected 71 pounds of unused and unwanted medications in a four-hour timeframe.
“We do feel that this is something where — it’s not intrusive on the community, we’re up front, we’re going to be at a lot of public events to begin with, and now we’re going to be handing this out no questions asked to people who want them,” Larsen said.
Another way people will be able to get rid of their unused medications in the near future will be at a thru-wall cabinet in the lobby at the Little Falls Police Department. The grant will pay for the cabinet itself along with any associated construction.
In this case, residents will have 24/7 access to the cabinet. They need only to drop the medication into the cabinet, where it will go down a chute and into a locked and secure cabinet on the other side of the wall.
“We felt that the Police Department lobby and breeze-way would be a good fit for that, because we have parking lot surveillance, we have lobby and breeze-way surveillance,” Schirmers said. “The cabinet is specifically designed so those medications cannot be retrieved.”
Once the cabinet is full, the medications will be taken to an incinerator for disposal. This is the same method LFPD and the Sheriff’s Office use to get rid of illicit drugs seized during arrests and investigations.
The other drug disposal units included in the grant will be placed at law enforcement agencies in Morrison County, though it is not determined where just yet. They will also be secure, anonymous and will be designed so that once a medication goes into the cabinet, it cannot be retrieved by someone else.
Larsen and Schirmers presented the grant for acceptance by the Morrison County Board of Commissioners at its meeting on May 4. During that discussion, Board Member Randy Winscher asked if it would be possible to put disposal units at local pharmacies as a matter of convenience.
Though that is not immediately part of the plan, Larsen said it could be moving forward as law enforcement works with the community to expand the program.
“Right now we have like a map, but we don’t have defined routes, which gives us a little flexibility as to what we can do with these products,” he said. “We talked about getting our communities involved, so yes, that would absolutely be one of the things we will look at. Anywhere it’s a convenience throughout our county to have access to this, we’re definitely going to be reaching out and having that as an option.”
He said the new supplies will begin to pop up around the county as soon as wording in the contract is finalized. The program has to be in place by November, but it will likely be sooner, in most cases.
During the presentation to the County Board, Commissioner Jeffrey Jelinski admitted that when the Sheriff first brought the program up, he thought it was “overkill.” He felt that way because there are already drug disposal programs in place throughout the county. On further thought, however, he saw the worth in the new opportunities that will be going into place.
“There’s one thing that you added with that — people are a little nervous to come into a law enforcement setting no matter what,” Jelinski said. “The most straight-laced person in the country has never had, or never will, probably, have contact with law enforcement, and they don’t want to. However, you then have someone who might be on the other side of the line, if you will, that really doesn’t want to, but wants to clean up their act. All I have to do is just grab a bag. Thus, I’m going to support this.”