By LOIS KINDLE
Hundreds of residents brought bags of prescription drugs to Community Hall last Friday during Operation Medicine Cabinet’s annual fall collection. They turned in 579.75 pounds of expired or unwanted prescriptions, over-the-counter meds, even vitamins and supplements, as well as syringes, liquids and old pet medications.
People arrived in cars, some in golfs carts and others by bicycle or on foot to hand over everything from Ziploc bags to garbage bags, and even a few boxes, filled with drugs they either couldn’t or shouldn’t use.
Thanks to a partnership between the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office and Home Instead Senior Care franchise owner Kristi Campbell, the event has taken place each spring and fall in Sun City Center since 2006.
“This is my seventh collection since I’ve been working in the community,” said Community Resource Deputy Jeff Merry. The fall collection is by far the largest, and we always have a great turnout. We’re performing a valuable service for the residents here.”
Campbell, who covers all supply costs for the event, agreed.
“Operation Medicine Cabinet is actually a cleanup, a way for seniors to safely dispose of all forms of drugs they no longer need, whether the drugs are expired or not,” she said. “We do this to eliminate the potential for medication errors and to assist them in keeping their meds out of the hands of friends, subcontractors, service providers and family members, especially teens looking for street-level drugs like oxycodone and other opioid medications.”
“It’s simply not safe to throw drugs away or dump them down a toilet or drain,” Campbell continued. “Doing that contaminates the water supply.”
A sheriff’s office deputy and usually one or two community service officers are always involved to keep the collection secure.
“There’s no need to remove labels or empty containers; we take everything as is,” Merry said.
Once the drugs are accepted, they’re dropped into boxes that are sealed, labeled, and then weighed and securely stored at the District II command office on Falkenburg Road in Tampa. They are taken to a 3,000-degree, Hillsborough County incinerator, where they’re destroyed in the same manner as confiscated weapons and seized drugs.
“They never leave the chain of custody,” Merry said.
The Dec. 1 collection netted 18 large boxes containing almost 600 pounds of drugs. The next event will be in April.
To date, Operation Medicine Chest collections in Sun City Center, Hawthorne Village and a couple of other locations have kept 9 tons of drugs out of the county’s water supply, Campbell said.
Residents can take small amounts of pills or capsules to the District IV command office, 508 33rd St. S.E., Ruskin, at any time throughout the year. Syringes or liquids are not permitted at this location.
For information on the next Operation Medicine Chest or to arrange a collection, call Campbell at 813-684-1972 or email email@example.com.