Prescription drug drop boxes prove popular in Billings

2011-12-23T00:00:00Z 2012-10-25T08:06:12Z Prescription drug drop boxes prove popular in BillingsBy CINDY UKEN Of The Gazette Staff The Billings Gazette
December 23, 2011 12:00 am  • 

Billings residents have surrendered more than 41 pounds of expired prescription drugs since October in a permanent drop box at the Billings Police Department.

The drop box is so popular that police have increased the frequency of emptying the box and incinerating its contents.

"We would like to get more money to get at least two more of the boxes," Deputy Police Chief Tim O'Connell said.

The popularity of the program is no accident, nor is it a surprise given its track record. Billings Police Chief Rich St. John is a member of Attorney General Steve Bullock's Prescription Drug Advisory Council. At the first statewide drug take-back event in 2010, Billings led the state in the amount of drugs collected: 406 pounds of prescription drugs in one day. Billings has also participated in every statewide and federal drug take-back effort.

"The support from Billings to raise awareness of prescription drug abuse — and stop it — has been tremendous from the very beginning," Bullock said. "I wasn't at all surprised that Billings was one of the first communities to step up to build a prescription drug drop box. These drop boxes don't happen without community leadership, organization and follow through."

Bullock established the program to keep old or unwanted prescription drugs out of the hands of addicts. Montana communities have pitched more than half a ton of unwanted or expired prescription drugs at local, permanent drop boxes in the the last six months.

The program, called Operation Medicine Cabinet, provides up to $1,000 to communities to build or buy the secure drop boxes. It began in June. To date, 17 Montana communities have applied for and won grants with 11 drop boxes now open.

"The immediate success of the prescription drug drop box program shows Montanans are worried about the invisible epidemic of prescription drug abuse," Bullock said.

Statistics show that 70 percent of people who abuse prescription drugs get them from friends or family. Additionally, the latest Youth Risk Behavior Survey conducted of Montana teenagers showed that by the time Montana students are seniors in high school, 23 percent have abused prescription drugs. 

Contact Cindy Uken at cuken@billingsgazette.com or 657-1287.

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