Get rid of outdated drugs

Published on: March 28, 2019

Sun City Center Community Resource Deputy Jeff Merry and South Bay Hospital CEO Dan Bender invite all area residents to drive through the hospital’s breezeway from 9 a.m. to noon April 5. This is a change of venue for the event, which has taken place each year in the spring and fall since December 2006. LOIS KINDLE PHOTOS

Operation Medicine Chest has a new venue


South Bay Hospital has partnered with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office and Home Instead Senior Care to host this spring’s Operation Medicine Chest. The event will take place from 9 a.m. to noon April 5 at the hospital, 4016 S.R. 674.
Rather than going to Community Hall as in years past, residents will travel by car or golf cart and pull into the hospital breezeway to drop off their expired, unwanted or unused medications to have them safely incinerated and kept out of the county’s waterways.
“Our goal (for partnering in Operation Medicine Chest) is to increase awareness on proper prescription disposal,” said Dan Bender, CEO of South Bay Hospital. “Our country is facing a crisis of epic proportions related to medication and drug addiction, in most cases due to pain management issues.
“This event provides an opportunity for our community to drop off medications confidentially and anonymously,” he continued. “The concern is a large number of patients hold on to their medications long after they are no longer needed, and they can fall into the hands of other family members, children or grandchildren.”
Keeping prescriptions they no longer need presents a danger to residents themselves.
“Many seniors make medication errors through mixing up their drugs and overdosing,” said Kristi Campbell, owner of the Home Instead Senior Care Brandon franchise. “That’s why we got involved in the first place. Collecting drugs people no longer use or need helps minimize these types of errors.
“We’re happy to continue our involvement in this community service,” she said.
Sheriff’s Office personnel Oversee Operation Medicine Chest, which enables residents to get rid of drugs conveniently and confidentially, rather than throwing them in the trash or flushing them down the toilet. Prescription and over-the-counter medications, liquids, pet meds and sharps (needles) are accepted.
“We don’t ask questions; we accept everything as is,” said Jeff Merry, the HCSO’s Community Resource Deputy for Sun City Center. “There’s no need to remove labels or empty containers. It’s very easy.”
Once the drugs are taken into custody, they’re sealed, labeled and securely stored at the HCSO Dist. II office in Tampa. At some point, they’re taken to be incinerated in a 3,000-degree oven, the same one the sheriff’s office uses to destroy illegal drugs and guns.
Operation Medicine Chest was started in Sun City Center in December 2006, after Community Resource Deputy Rob Thornton noticed a large number of people in the community were going to the hospital after overdosing due to medication mix-ups. He approached Campbell, and their two organizations partnered to create the collection. It has been held in the spring and fall every year since.
Sun City Center residents turn in an average of 1,000 pounds of drugs per year, Merry said.
The Dist. 4 Command office, 508 33rd St. S.E., Ruskin, accepts small amounts of pills or capsules any time. Liquids and sharps are prohibited there.
For more information on Operation Medicine Chest, call 813-629-8869 or email or