Summit County group distributes 60,000 disposal pouches for prescription drugs
AKRON, Ohio - Summit County Community Partnership and its 60 partners have distributed more than 60,000 disposal pouches for prescription drugs in less than two years in the Deterra Project, an addiction-prevention initiative.
The pouches deactivate drugs after water is added and render the mixture safe for normal disposal with residents’ trash. Each pouch comes with a returnable postcard to help the organization track the pouches’ uses and effectiveness.
SCCP, which works to prevent substance abuse in Summit County, has planned a free community celebration marking the project’s success, from 8-10 a.m. on Thursday Oct. 25 at the Ann & David Brennan Critical Care Center on the Summa Health System Akron Campus. The event space and refreshments are being donated by Summa, said Alyce Jennings, SCCP’s director of development.
The pouches are distributed to senior centers, and are sent home with patients who have been prescribed opiates at all Summa Heath, Cleveland Clinic Akron General, Children’s and Western Reserve hospitals.
Out of more than 1,000 postcards returned, about 70 percent of pouch recipients have reported that they’ve used their pouch within 30 days to dispose of unused prescription drugs, she said.
“That’s encouraging that people are using it quickly,” Jennings said. “We’re really seeing that the community has embraced it. If everybody’s doing their part, that’s the way the big changes come.”
If each recipient used their pouch to dispose of the maximum capacity of 45 pills, the initiative will have removed more than 2.1 million unused or unneeded prescription pills from falling into the wrong hands since Deterra launched on Aug. 31, 2016, Jennings said.
The pouches, along with other community efforts, appear to be working, as overdoses treated at local hospitals are down from last year.
Jan. 1 through the end of August 2017, Summit County Public Health reported 1,624 overdose cases were treated at local hospitals. As of today, the health department reports 875 overdoses have been treated at hospitals since the beginning of the year.
The Deterra Project was launched to locally combat the growing opiate epidemic through a donation from Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals of an initial 40,000 drug-deactivation pouches.
Acme Fresh Markets partnered with SCCP to distribute the free pouches, which are available at any Acme Fresh Market location.
Many SCCP partner organizations also distribute the pouches, including Akron Metropolitan Housing Authority, Community Health Center, County of Summit ADM Board, Vantage Aging (formerly Mature Services), the Summit County Opiate Task Force and Summit County Public Health.
Prior to receiving the pouches, many residents didn’t know how to dispose of unwanted pills, had no transportation to deliver them to a drop location or were too busy, Jennings said.
In the 1990s, when SCCP was launched, most organizations handled drug addiction prevention and addiction treatment as separate efforts, said SCCP Executive Director Darryl Brake. Now, through research and evidence-based studies, it is understood that prevention, which the pouches address, is a critical step that leads to addiction.
Safe storage of drugs is another of the organization’s goals for helping people, he said.
“It’s not putting them in the back of your pajamas drawer,” Brake said. “It’s locking them up and keeping them away from anybody other than you.”
To that end, SCCP wants residents to sign up free to become Summit County Defenders, to learn more about safe medicine use, storage and disposal. Defenders will receive free disposal pouches, monthly information on eliminating drug addiction and notification of local events.
“It’s everybody’s role to be involved in this,” Brake said. “Summit County Defenders are boots on the ground spreading the message.”
Because of the success of the Deterra Project, Safe RX was formed from a consortium of Summit County and the six counties that border Summit -- Cuyahoga, Medina, Wayne, Stark, Portage and Geauga counties.
In addition to modelling similar drug-disposal projects after Summit County’s Deterra project, consortium members are working to make the project sustainable through grants and other types of funding to buy disposal pouches, Brake said.
The Deterra Project is intended to supplement other safe-disposal programs, such as Project D.U.M.P., which provides Summit County residents with drug deposit boxes around the community, and national Prescription Take Back Days at local police stations.
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