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From left, Capt. Kelly Redmon, Rachel Florence and Kelli Haas of the Project Lazarus Community Coalition, and Sheriff Len Hagaman help show off a new drug drop box available within the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office. Kellen Short | Watauga Democrat.

Originally published: 2013-11-11 10:45:10
Last modified: 2013-11-11 10:46:55

Drug drop box installed at sheriff's office

A new drug drop box has been placed at the Watauga County Sheriff's Office, offering an opportunity for community members to dispose of unwanted medications year-round -- no questions asked.

The secure box was placed in the lobby of the building at 184 Hodges Gap Road in Boone on Oct. 18 and already is drawing interest.

The drop box springboards on the success of the Operation Medicine Cabinet events held twice a year in Watauga County. Now, residents don't have to wait for those biannual dates to get rid of outdated or unneeded medicines.

The box was provided through Project Lazarus, a Wilkes County-based nonprofit that aims to reduce deaths from drug overdoses.

Project Lazarus Executive Director Fred Brason said the group solicited donations to provide the boxes to 30 to 40 North Carolina counties, especially those that do not currently have such an option. The Drug Enforcement Administration requires that the take-back boxes be placed at law enforcement offices, he said.

The bins can accept any over-the-counter or prescription pills or liquids, Sheriff Len Hagaman said -- even veterinary medicines for disposal. Sharps are not accepted.

No questions will be asked of drop-box users, and the box can be accessed between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

At regular intervals, the sheriff's office will collect the medicines for incineration through an EPA-approved contractor.

Brason said the take-back boxes represent one component of what the organization is doing to combat drug overdoses and diversion.

He said an estimated 70 percent of drug diversion occurs between family and friends, so the drop box could help lessen those chances. It also prevents residents from throwing away or flushing unwanted medicines, which can harm the environment.

"It creates awareness and education to the community about how we handle medication, and that's the long-term effect," Brason said.

The project was coordinated by the Project Lazarus Community Coalition for Watauga County. The coalition meets every other month to discuss ways to combat prescription drug abuse, said coordinator Rachel Florence.

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