Drug Take-Back Day brings record crowd to drop off meds

More than 300 Blount County residents turned over more than 750 pounds of medication during a drug take-back event at the Blount County Justice Center.

Drug Take-Back Day took place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, March 19. People were encouraged to help keep their families and community safe by bringing any expired, unwanted or unused medications to the event.

Proper disposal of prescription and over-the-counter medications helps prevent drug-related abuse, thefts, accidental poisonings and environmental hazards, said event organizers. All medication drop-offs were anonymous, with no questions asked.

The event was sponsored by the 5th Judicial Drug Task Force, Keep Blount Beautiful and the Substance Abuse Prevention Action Team, which is part of the Blount County Community Health Initiative.

A Drug Free Communities (DFC) grant was recently issued to Blount Memorial Hospital, which is a fiscal agent for the Community Health Initiative. The grant is for $125,000 per year, for a potential of up to 10 years, and addresses substance abuse among youth in Blount County - specifically alcohol use and prescription medication abuse.

Partnering with the Drug Task Force on this event was one of the short-term goals of the grant.

Judy Clabough, community outreach coordinator for the Blount Memorial Foundation and Community Outreach, said 752 pounds of medications were collected. “I think this is a direct result of the staff from the 5th Judicial Drug Task Force, The Substance Abuse Prevention Action Team and Keep Blount Beautiful being so heavily involved in getting the word out about the event,” said Clabough. “It was a regionally recognized event. We also had great cooperation from our local pharmacies, which helped us spread the word. I was really pleased with the response from our community members. There were approximately 300 people that brought their medications to the event, which is a great turnout.”

Clabough said this meant that 752 pounds of medication was taken out of the potential circulation of misuse and abuse. “That’s a real accomplishment. Working together with other organizations was the key to the event’s success,” she said. “We’re all reaching for the same goal, which is to have a healthier community with less substance abuse among youth and adults. Working together reinforces our efforts to accomplish our goals.”

Marian O’Briant, public information officer with the Blount County Sheriff’s Office, said the event was well attended. “We had a lot of people come through. We had four or five of us who were disposing of the pills, and we couldn’t keep up,” she said. “We did this in September and we had a good turnout, but this was a lot better. It was very successful.”

Charlene DeSha, executive director of Keep Blount Beautiful, said 751.5 pounds of medication was received. “They also received 155 pounds of plastic bottles for recycling and four full syringe boxes,” she said.

DeSha said the sheriff’s office, the Fifth Judicial Drug Task Force and Blount Memorial Hospital collaborated in the fall for National Drug Take Back Day. This was the first time Keep Blount Beautiful has participated by helping residents and by handing out pamphlets.

“You shouldn’t flush your medication down the toilet or drain because they can pollute our drinking water and landfills, and it can go into the water table,” DeSha said. “It is really important to dispose of medication properly. The hospital, sheriff’s office and Keep Blount Beautiful are working together to get a secure, 24-hour drop-off site in our county for medication.”

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