It’s been about one month since the Brooklyn Center Police Department set up its medicine drop-off box, and though the box hasn’t received enough materials to be emptied, Commander Rick Gabler said he expects contributions to increase as more residents become aware of it.
“We’ve had almost 500 overdoses in Brooklyn Center in the last year,” Gabler said. “The drop-off is just a way to help reduce that and give members of our community a chance to dispose of unwanted medicines.”
About 10 percent of all disposed medicines in the U.S. are controlled substances, which include narcotics, stimulants, depressants and other addictive drugs. Hennepin County has been opening drop-off points for these substances. Early last month, Brooklyn Center’s police force purchased and opened its own box. This new tool to combat drug abuse on the household level comes after a severe spike in drug-related deaths in Hennepin County.
According to the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office, about 170 drug-related deaths last year, an almost 50 percent increase since 2015.
“[The] sheriff’s office will be utilizing all local and federal resources available to us to prevent the illegal supply of drugs from entering our community and to raise awareness of the public safety and public health epidemic,” Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek said.
Brooklyn Center’s medicine drop-off station was Gabler’s idea. He said the department received paperwork help from the county and supply funds from the North Memorial Partnership for Change, a nonprofit focused on reducing drug use locally.
“We started this only a month ago,” he said, “so we don’t know what we’ve collected as far as medicines. But Hennepin County has disposed of thousands of pounds [in the past year].”
According to Gabler, the department will incinerate the drugs at the Hennepin Energy Recovery Center at the end of the year.
“We’ll weigh it and inventory [the medicine],” he said. “We’ll check for things that don’t belong, like needles or other things we won’t collect. Our officers will put the unwanted medicines into the garbage heap, and it gets incinerated right there. That’s how we can ensure nobody gets their hands on these medicines.”
Children potentially getting into the medicine cabinet are not the only danger of keeping medicine around the house, Gabler said.
“Obviously the kids are a big component,” he said. “If you have medicine laying around, your family members might get curious. A spouse or house guests could get curious and get hooked on this stuff. Even if a person is prescribed to it, if they find themselves abusing it, this is an outlet to get rid of it.”
Drug abuse often begins in the home. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, some adults began abusing household drugs such as sleeping pills and anti-anxiety medicine between ages 12 and 13.
Disposing of drugs at the drop-off point as opposed to throwing them in the trash keeps kids and others from finding the bottles. Moreover, the method is proven to be more environmentally friendly.
“I’m hoping it gives everybody an option,” Gabler said. “Hennepin County has one in every courthouse as well. This is a way to get those medicines out of the house safely. That’s really our goal.”
Gabler said the process of getting the drop-off set up included a good deal of paperwork.
“You have to let the DEA know that you’re starting a medicine collection box,” he said. “Because the medicine is considered hazardous waste, you have to fill out paperwork and let the county know you’re collecting.”
By the end of the year, the department will know how often to empty the box and will likely begin to see patterns in what drugs are being dropped off. Dropping off medicine at the police station is entirely anonymous, requires no I.D. and does not require speaking to an officer.
“Medicine has an intended purpose,” Gabler said, “but one of the costs of that is they’re highly addictive. If it’s no longer needed, get it out of the house.”