Drug drop off boxes serve as ‘prevention tools’
For the past four years the Shelton Police department has had one of nearly 60 operating drug drop off boxes in Connecticut located within its headquarters.
Designed to prevent prescription drugs from getting into the wrong hands and consequently abused, the Shelton Police Department placed its box in the lobby of its headquarters which is open for public access 24 hours a day and seven days a week.
Shelton Police Officer John Giordano said he’s worked as the overseer for the drug drop off box in the department for the past four years and has seen a steady increase in the annual amount collected.
Giordano, who has been an officer for 28 years, explained that there are strict guidelines he has to follow while monitoring the drop off.
“We can’t look at the names or prescription type that they drop off or are getting rid of,” said Giordano.
Officer Giordano said every three weeks he pours all of the drugs that were collected into a box that it is sealed up and stored as evidence. At the end of each month, Giordano said he weighs the total amount collected and then brings the drugs to be burned in the Bridgeport incinerator.
“The purpose of us burning these drugs is to prevent people from flushing them down the toilet, giving them to someone else which is illegal or just having them get into the wrong hands,” said Giordano. “When they flush the drugs they run the risk of potentially contaminating a water source which can obviously be dangerous.”
The drop off box in Shelton is similar ones in neighboring towns such as Ansonia, Seymour, West Haven and New Haven. All of which specify that it is meant to collect only narcotics or prescription medication.
Giordano said the following items should not be deposited in the drug drop off box: needles, anything contaminated with blood, or inhalers. If Giordano notices that something prohibited has been placed in the drop off box, it’s carefully removed placed in a hazardous medical waste bin.
Despite the list of items to be deposited in the box written on its exterior, Giordano said people continue to drop off vitamins, but the police dispose of them anyways.
Getting drugs off the street?
As much as the Shelton Police would like to keep as much illegal drugs off the street as possible, Giordano said this drop off box hasn’t had an impact on the rates of drug arrests and it is actually a separate effort.
“This box hasn’t and isn’t designed to help keep drugs off the street. If it does that’s great but we haven’t seen the numbers change or decrease at all since it was created,” said Giordano. “It’s more so of a place where people who have family member that died, can drop their extra medication or any other situation where they want or need to get rid of extra medication.”
Director of the Valley Substance Action Council Pam Mautte said the concept of drop off boxes derived from a grant that helped organize “Medication Take Back days” throughout the state. These organized events would require people to come to a location and dispose of their unneeded medication face-to-face. Mautte said staff would literally have to count the number of pills dropped off per person, but since then the process has become much smoother.
Mautte said she’s hopeful that more towns will adopt the medication drop boxes in their communities.
“It really has served as a great prevention tool as we’ve seen more and more people abusing not only opioids, but other prescription drugs as well,” said Mautte. “
In 2015 there were 55 boxes located in Connecticut that collected a total of 23,541 pounds of medication. Each box is free to use by a member of any community.
Shelton’s drop off box collected a total of 315 pounds in 2015 and 350 pounds in 2016, according to Officer Giordano.