Medicine drop box fights opioid, prescription abuse

The H2i Coalition of Ector County celebrated its fifth anniversary of its medicine drop box at the Odessa Police Department Wednesday, which helps to dispose of expired and unwanted medication and prevent prescription drug abuse.

“We would rather them dispose of it here than in our sinks to contaminate our water,” H2i Coalition Coordinator Sara Tomlinson said. “And it’s another tool to help fight the opioid crisis.”

Mellessa Brenem, Director of Prevention Programs at the Permian Basin Regional Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse said the prescription drugs and opioids collected from the box are counted by pill and reported back to the Texas Targeted Opioid Response program to measure how many opioids they are collecting each year.

The use of the box has grown immensely since it was installed in 2013. Its first year it had only collected around 100 pounds of medicine, Brenem said, but in 2017 it collected around 835 pounds in total. So far this year, 1,509 opioids have been collected and more than 200 pounds of medicine from their box at OPD.

“This is a big step in helping the community fight opioid addiction,” Brenem said.

Kathy Rountree of Odessa is one of several people who drops off unused medication at the box, who was recently disposing of her late father’s expired Alzheimer’s medication.

“We have a bunch of expired drugs,” Rountree said. “You have to get rid of them somewhere.”

The drugs in the box are collected weekly by OPD, and burned along with drugs seized by officers no longer needed as evidence.

H2i first came up with the idea for the box in 2012, and it took a year to be placed in the OPD Headquarters, 205 N. Grant Ave., to ensure it met police policy, and was paid for with a grant from Students in Philanthropy at University of Texas of the Permian Basin.

The drug box is available to be used by anyone at all times of the day, located on the left side of the entranceway of OPD Headquarters. H2i also has a second medicine drop box set up in the Ector County Sheriff’s Office, which is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

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