A new drug take-back box installed in the lobby of the Neosho Police Department – the 11th such box furnished by the Alliance of Southwest Missouri – was dedicated Wednesday at a Neosho Area Chamber of Commerce ribbon cutting.

A new drug take-back box installed in the lobby of the Neosho Police Department – the 11th such box furnished by the Alliance of Southwest Missouri – was dedicated Wednesday at a Neosho Area Chamber of Commerce ribbon cutting.
With boxes in place at the Seneca, Carl Junction, Webb City, Carthage and Lamar police departments, plus three in Joplin, and at the Newton, Jasper and McDonald counties’ sheriff’s departments, Kevin Thielen, the Alliance’s Safe Kids coordinator, indicated the group has taken more than 2,000 pounds of unused prescription medications out of circulation since early 2012.
“That’s a lot of little-bitty pills,” he said. “We’ve got three more boxes that are already built. We’re really, really happy that Neosho is taking part in it, and we‘re going to try to see if we can get a lot more going on here.”
Mid-American Water, according to Alliance Director of Communications and Development Stephanie Onstot, provides funding for the program in an effort to head off pollution of the local water system.
“They gave us a grant, and we partner with them so we keep the water system clean,” Onstot explained. “A lot of people think they will just flush them instead of disposing of them.”
No needles, razors or anything sharp will be accepted, Thielen said.
“We say no illicit drugs, like marijuana or cocaine or whatever,” he said. “The reason we do that is because if they put it in there – of course we’ll dispose of it – but we don’t want them to be driving around and they get caught and say, ‘Oh, I was taking it to the drug take back.’”
Thielen asks residents disposing of old or unused drugs to first place them in a zipper baggie.
“With the bottle in that zip-locked baggie, they (law enforcement) know it’s a prescription to them, and then when they get here, they can take the bottle out or throw it away and then drop that in there,” he instructed. “That way, there’s no transferring of pills between the bottle and the box. If you drop it on the floor, if one kid got a hold of a drug we didn’t want them to get a hold of, that would defeat our purpose.”
As a grant requirement, Thielen asks all agencies to weigh a box’s contents and report the results to him. Because of regulations, medications cannot be incinerated locally, so the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) makes rounds twice a year to pick up drugs collected by each local agency.
“The problem is (that) we’re trying to keep it out of the well water and the drinking water, so we want to dispose of them correctly,” he said.
A DEA agent will come from Springfield anytime to empty a full box, Neosho Police Chief David Kennedy said.
DEA regulations require a drug take-back box to be bolted to the floor, have video surveillance and be available to the public during regular business hours, Thielen said. For Neosho police, that’s 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays.
Thielen is looking for places to install three remaining boxes and would like to place a box at Granby, but Newton County Community Coalition President Tim Mitchell said the municipal set-up there will not allow it at this time. Because the police department is at city hall, if no police are on site, the box would have to be behind locked doors, which creates limitations.
A pharmacist, Mitchell said the DEA in the past year has promoted having pharmacies be able to serve as drop-off points for unused medications. Because the pharmacy board has no such laws in place, the state of Missouri does not allow that.
“We are working on getting those laws put in place so that we can place containers like what you have in pharmacies throughout, which will be even more accessible during the hours that people are coming in,” he said. “If someone has Grandma’s hydrocodone and they want to turn it in, they’re probably a little intimidated by walking in your (police) door, maybe a little less intimidated by coming in mine. Just another option for people, more accessibility is what we are looking for.”
People frequently come into Mitchell’s pharmacies with medications of “Grandma” or someone else who passed away. He previously sent them to the sheriff’s department for proper disposal, but Neosho now has two such options.
Initiated in the early 2000s as the Neosho Area Coalition, Mitchell said the coalition always has been supported strongly by the alliance and expressed appreciation for providing the new drug take-back box for Neosho.
The new box fits well with the coalition’s stated mission to eliminate drug and alcohol abuse and other risky behaviors by Newton County youth, Mitchell said.
“Prescription drug abuse is a big problem, and we felt like it was important for people in the county – and especially this town – to have access to be able to drop their medications off,” he said. “We’ve been working on this since the early 2000s. This last year, prescription drug abuse accidental death surpassed accidental death by car accidents. The number of people who died of prescription drug abuse exceeded those of accidents. That’s a major thing. We have a severe prescription drug abuse problem, primarily controlled substances.”
The coalition will continue its efforts to educate the public about the hazards of prescription drugs, Mitchell said, with Drug Take Back events to be held semi-annually.
“Chief Kennedy has been very good about being proactive in trying to get information from the DEA on how to properly dispose of these medications,” he said. “They send us containers, and when we have a Drug Take Back event, he takes possession of all those drugs and sends them on.
Take-back events in Neosho, Granby and Seneca corresponded with the proclaimed National Drug Take Back Day on Sept. 26. Mitchell indicated that will be repeated early next summer with support of the coalition.
“It’s very important,” he insisted. “It’s not the sole cause, but it is one of the things that we really want to try to push out in the community.”