Disposal difficulties cause pills to pile up

Local News

Take a look in your medicine cabinet. Or bathroom drawers. Or even in the kitchen. Chances are you have several bottles of unused, maybe even expired, medications. 

“If I have to look at it and say, ‘Is this still good?’ Chances are, it probably isn’t,” Sgt. Ron Galaviz with the Indiana State Police, said. 

Police don’t want you keeping those meds around or throwing them out. 

“We do not want people dumping them down the drain or flushing them down the toilet. There are enough things that contaminate our environment and this is one small piece we have control of,” Galaviz said. “We’ve seen in countless investigations over the years these prescriptions end up in the hands of the wrong people for the wrong reasons.” 

That’s why Allen County TRIAD, along with the Indiana State Police and the Allen County Sheriff’s Department, hold drug take-back days. 

“It stops it from showing up where it shouldn’t. The landfills. The waterways or on the street. It may be a slight inconvenience, but it’s a huge step toward stopping the opiate epidemic and drug use,” Capt. Steve Stone with the Allen County Sheriff’s Department, said. 

There are two main take-back days a year: the last Friday of the month every April and September. Since 2003, those days have brought in 50,000 pounds of unwanted medication. 

“That’s 25 tons of medication not in the drinking water, not in our soil and not running rampant on city streets right now,” Galaviz said. 

Law enforcement then safely destroys the drugs. 

“It’s incinerated. We’re talking 3,000 plus degrees,” Galaviz said. 

But almost two years ago, the place in Allen County where the sheriff’s department brought the collected medications, couldn’t do it anymore. 

“With changes in EPA regulations, the local site could no longer do that. It takes special filters and permits so now we have to find another location to have it incinerated. And it has to be on pallets and shrink wrapped, so there’s more steps to go through to be able to get rid of it,” Stone said. 

For the last 18 months, in an undisclosed, secure location, the sheriff’s department has been storing around 500 bags of old prescription medications. 

Hundreds of bags of medication turned in by the public have been piling up because the Allen County Sheriff's Department was forced to find a new way to dispose of the drugs when a local incinerator could no longer take them. 

The department traveled to Indianapolis once to have it destroyed there, but when they got there, the incinerator was offline. So, the meds, all came back. 

Now the DEA is helping and supplying boxes to pack up the pills. 

“We will ship them to another secure location and then they will be put on pallets and shrink wrapped and then they will be taken to another location where they will be incinerated,” Stone said. 

It’s not clear if the local incinerator will update its facilities to be EPA compliant. 

“It would be a benefit to us if they did come back on line. It’s no fault of their own, they would help if they could and I don’t know if they would be able to come back or not,” Stone explained. 

But, the drug collection days will continue. Even if it’s harder for the department to destroy them now, Stone still hopes the public will turn in their tablets. 

“We’d rather go through the steps we have to to get rid of it than leave it in the medicine cabinet and have their kids or criminals get rid of it,” he said. 

This year, people are being asked to dump the pills out into the collection boxes and then get rid of the packaging on their own. That will also help police store and destroy the medication more easily. 

“Recycle the plastic containers and boxes and share in the ownership a little bit,” Galaviz said. 

Only pills and powers can be brought to the collection sites. To get rid of liquids, pour them into a plastic bag with kitty litter or coffee grounds inside to absorb the liquid. That can then be sealed and thrown out. 

Friday, April 27
9 AM – 1 PM

The following Walgreen’s locations: 

  • 5830 N. Clinton St.
  • 6202 W. Jefferson Blvd.
  • 6730 Bluffton Rd. 
  • 330 W. State Blvd.
  • 907 Lincoln Hwy W (New Haven)
  • 10170 Maysville Rd. 
  • 1701 E. Paulding Rd. 
  • 5435 E. Dupont Rd. 
  • 10211 Chestnut Plaza Drive (Chestnut Hills)
  • 11032 Lima Rd. 
  • 10412 Coldwater Rd. 
  • 2410 N. Coliseum Blvd. 
  • 6201 Stellhorn Rd. 
  • 7950 W. Jefferson Blvd. (Lutheran Hospital) 

Ongoing Collection Sites (for pills only) 

  • Indiana State Police post – 5811 Ellison Rd. 
  • Allen County Sheriff’s Department Huntertown Town Hall 
  • Fort Wayne police in the lobby of the Ed Rousseau building
  • New Haven police – 815 Lincoln Highway East
  • Walgreen’s  at Jefferson and Getz (during pharmacy hours)
  • Walgreen’s at Maplecrest and Stellhorn (during pharmacy hours) 

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