BY THE NUMBERS:
Collection totals from drug turn-in day:
- Amherst: 24 boxes, 545 pounds
- Avon: 30 boxes, 560.2 pounds
- Avon Lake: 25 boxes, 437.6 pounds
- Columbia Township: 7 boxes, 130.8 pounds
- Elyria: 23 boxes, 438 pounds
- Grafton: 9 boxes, 183.8 pounds
- Kipton: 1 box, 13.4 pounds
- LaGrange: 4 boxes, 74.2 pounds
- Lorain County Sheriff’s Office: 40 boxes, 426.8 pounds
- Lorain: 29 boxes, 414 pounds
- North Ridgeville: 9 boxes, 225.6 pounds
- Oberlin: 15 boxes, 228 pounds
- Sheffield Lake: 6 boxes, 150 pounds
- Sheffield Village: 2 boxes, 37.8 pounds
- Vermillion: 3 boxes, 63 pounds
- Wellington: 13 boxes, 197.2
TOTAL: 240 boxes, 4,125.4 gross pounds
Residents came out in steady numbers to police departments in Lorain County on Saturday with bags of expired or no longer needed prescription pills for a drug turn-in day.
Rich Resendez, front, and Craig Camp of the Lorain County Sheriff’s office stand in a long hallway filled floor to ceiling with boxes containing prescription drugs that have been turned in.
ANNA NORRIS / CHRONICLE Enlarge
Saturday’s collection accounted for the bulk of more than 4,000 pounds of pills collected from residents over the last six months.
Though the event is something that police departments have done for years, in its 16th year police worked with drug prevention agencies to have counselors at several of the police departments to talk with and provide information for families in need.
After the pills are boxed and weighed by the Lorain County Sheriff’s Office, they are turned over to Ross Incineration Services to be properly disposed.
“Making sure these don’t get diverted into the streets is the main key,” Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Dennis Cavanaugh said. “There are some very potent drugs in these boxes.”
Tom Stuber, executive director of The LCADA Way, said it was a natural fit to combine drug prevention information with the event.
“The Drug Task Force put out an ask for any volunteers and I put it out to the staff and a whole bunch volunteered to be there,” Stuber said. “We very much want to be helpful to this community and know that several people are struggling.”
Cavanaugh said the county broke records with this year’s haul, which totaled 240 boxes weighing 4,125.4 pounds.
The Lorain County Sheriff’s Office collected the most boxes, 40, followed by the police departments in Avon with 30, Lorain with 29, Avon Lake with 25, Amherst with 24 and Elyria with 23.
“This tells me that community awareness is going up and that our efforts are being pretty successful about letting people know the dangers of having unused narcotics and the importance of disposing them so they don’t fall in the hands of people that can abuse them or become addicted,” Stuber said.
For months now, local law enforcement has stepped up its efforts in educating families to keep prescription medicine away from where children could find it and possibly abuse it, as a common path to drug addiction is through prescription pills.
Having counselors at drug turn-in day is just the latest way law enforcement has worked with prevention agencies. Cavanaugh said it started with promoting naloxone, a drug that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.
Curbing the problem takes a multifaceted approach, Cavanaugh said.
Along with events like drug turn-in day, law enforcement is working to arrest traffickers, pushing the courts to get those arrested for selling drugs to people who later die charged with involuntary manslaughter, and encouraging drug users to seek treatment.
But one of the main hurdles is that there are not enough facilities for addicts.
“We’re not arresting our way out of the problem,” Cavanaugh said. “The problem is there isn’t enough of these facilities. It’s very difficult to get people in and get the right help and it takes quite an effort and a long period of time.”
Greg Mehling, a detective with the Lorain County Sheriff’s office Drug Task Force, said more funding is needed for treatment centers and what he called “sustainability care.”
Yet the stigma against addicts hinders funding efforts, Mehling said.
“Certain groups (say), ‘Well, why are you saving those people? Why are you trying to do that?’ Because they’re human beings,” Mehling said. “If it’s not your relative or friend, it’s going to be someone you’re going to know.”
Residents who missed drug turn-in day can still get rid of their old or unneeded prescription pills at local police departments, though space is limited.