State Will Continue Prescription Drug Take-Back Efforts

DEA Ended Its Involvement In Drug Collection Initiatives Last Year

Wisconsin National Guard (CC-BY-NC-ND)

A statewide prescription drug take-back effort will continue, even through federal coordination ended last year.

The Wisconsin Justice Department said earlier this week that it take the lead on safe disposal of prescription drugs by providing personnel and logistics. Attorney General Brad Schimel said an incinerator company in Indiana, Covanta Energy, has agreed to dispose of the drugs for free.

While the process of shipping the disposed-of prescriptions will be expensive — a ballpark estimate is around $20,000 per collection event — Schimel said it’s an important preventive measure and will save money for local law enforcement.

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“If local law enforcement was doing this themselves, each of them would be incurring these costs of transporting the drugs, getting all this done,” he said. “I think we can, we’ll experience a tremendous economy of scale.”

After the Secure and Responsible Drug Disposal Act was signed in 2010, the federal Drug Enforcement Agency began administering drug take-back events to help local law enforcement dispose of unused prescription drugs. However, federal regulations were changed, and the last statewide drug take-back run by the DEA was in September 2014. During that last collection, more than 17 tons of drugs were disposed of in Wisconsin.

Law enforcement agencies around Wisconsin took part in these take-back events, among them the Waukesha County Sheriff’s Department. Sheriff Erik Severson said that when the DEA began its drug collection, the department jumped on board early. After the DEA announced it would no longer be coordinating these efforts, Severson said they had to take a hard look at how they would continue to manage an important part of the heroin and opiate problem.

They began to explore the idea of having drug drop-off boxes available, like other law enforcement agencies around the country were doing.

“My position was that I want to do what we can to collect and make the collection of those pills as easy as possible for the public,” Severson said. “If it meant that we were going to have to divert some funding to pay for the destruction of those down the road, I was willing to do that.”

The sheriff’s department maintains three drug collection units in partnership with CVS Pharmacy. Other agencies in the county also have their own drug collection boxes, which brings the total number of dropbox locations to nine in Waukesha County.

Severson said they were also in contact with the DOJ to considering other avenues for drug disposal and that they’re looking forward to working with the agency to re-establish drug collection days.

“We’re really excited that the attorney general has taken this on as being an important thing,” he said. “It’s really a opportunity for law enforcement agencies to really come together and work on the collection of these opiates.”

The first drug take-back coordinated by the DOJ is scheduled for May.