Newton County Community Coalition Hosts Drug Take-Back Day

Seth Kinker
Neosho Daily News

The first of two National Prescription Drug Take Back Day’s for 2021 took place on Apr. 24.

The first Drug Take-Back Day was in 2010 and shortly after, Congress approved legislation to amend he Controlled Substances Act that gave the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) more freedom to develop a process to allow people to safely and conveniently dispose of their prescription drugs.

Designed to provide a safe, convenient and responsible way to dispose of prescription drugs while educating the public about the potential for abuse of medications, the Newton County Community Coalition (NCCC) partnered with the Neosho Police Department to host a collection site at Wildcat Corner in Neosho.

In addition to collecting prescription drugs from the community, bags were handed out with information items on prescription drug abuse, information on the NCCC and medicine drop off locations throughout the county.  The bags also included Deterra, a drug deactivating system.

Once the event was over, the medications were disposed of by the Neosho Police Department with Saturday’s event collecting just over 30 lbs. of prescription medications.  

“What we’re doing today is taking back those medications that have been sitting around for months or years and not used any longer,” said Jeff Higgins, Vice President of the NCCC. “Be wise, don’t leave medicines just sitting in an open place where even a friend coming by can go through someone’s medicine cabinet and clear it out. You don’t even notice it; it’s been sitting there for months.”

Phillip Whiteman, the Drug Free Community Grand Coordinator and Program Director at Crowder College, is a member of the NCCC and was a school resource officer prior to working at Crowder.

“It goes in waves, just like everything else,” said Whiteman of the issue of prescription drug abuse. “We were going through a little bit of a lull because of hard hitting efforts by the DEA including things like this (event), local agencies hitting it hard and it being a nationally recognized issue now. We are currently seeing an uptick in (prescription drug abuse).”

Whiteman also detailed three teens dying in the county around six months ago at what are called “skittle parties.”

“Kids will go to a house when parents are away, unfortunately, sometimes the parents are there,” said Whiteman. “They’ll show up intoxicated or get intoxicated while they are there, throw a bunch of pills from grandma and grandpa’s or mom and dad’s medicine cabinet into a bowl and then at the party they help themselves.”

“What really gets them is combining those pills with alcohol, some of those pills are obviously controlled and potent themselves,” added Whiteman. “That young of a body physically, you’re not mature enough to handle that level of medication, not to mention you’re magnifying the effects with alcohol.”

Whiteman told the Neosho Daily News that parents can combat some of the issues when it comes to prescription drug abuse by continuing to educate themselves on drug slang.

He noted that he knows is difficult to do so, even for law enforcement that deal with it on a daily basis, to learn what the new street terms are for something let alone a parent that isn’t involved with the issue on a daily issue.

Higgins said that as a parent, knowing the friends and where your child is hanging out can be one way to begin to address the issue.

“Be familiar with what’s at home,” added Higgins. “It might be tinfoil, spoons, miscellaneous stuff they’ve got in their rooms for whatever stupid reason that doesn’t seem logical to you, but they have a reason for it. Money that is coming in or out that’s unexplainable. Really, just keep that relationship with your kid so you know them.”

“It’s not going to be overnight, but a continual effort,” said Whiteman.

The NCCC’s mission statement is to strive to prevent drug and alcohol abuse and other risky behaviors among youth through collaboration, education, empowerment, early-intervention, and community transformation efforts throughout Newton County.

The coalition meets from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. every fourth Tuesday of the month in the Talkington building in Neosho and their Facebook page can be found by searching, “Newton County Community Coalition.”