In St. Joseph, Missouri, my YVC program is working to solve the problem of safe opioid and narcotic disposal.
Many businesses and community members do not properly dispose of medications in a way that is safe for the environment and wildlife. The most common ways of disposing of medications are flushing them down the toilet, throwing them directly into the trash, or mixing with cat litter and water before they are taken to a landfill. These methods make the medications technically disposed of, but not deactivated, which allows them to potentially seep into groundwater, streams and ponds through water runoff. This contaminated water can have a devastating effect on area ecosystems.
With a grant of $4,000, YVC of St. Joseph ordered 1,100 Deterra Bags and designed a service project to educate local businesses on how to safely dispose of unused medication. Dettera Bags are plastic bags with activated charcoal that, once mixed with warm water, adsorbs and deactivates harmful chemicals in opioids and narcotics making them safe for disposal. Each bag can hold 15 pills and can easily be unsealed and resealed so you can add pills as needed. If the bag dries out, simply add more water.
We made connections with area pharmacies and hospice centers where we distributed our Deterra Bags and information on how to use them. We gave 100 Deterra Bags to our largest hospice center and our local news station did a news story on our project to help educate our community. We also created flyers addressing how to properly dispose of medications and those are now handed out with every opioid or narcotic prescription filled at local pharmacies.
To make it as easy as possible for St. Joseph residents to properly dispose of medications, we host a “Prescription take back” twice a year. Community members are encouraged to drop-off old, un-needed medication and we safely dispose of it in an incinerator.
I’ve seen real progress in St. Joseph as businesses and community members take more responsibility and become more active in the safe disposal of unused medication. They may seem small but these left-over pills can have a terrible impact on our environment and I’m happy to have helped bring about a change for the better in my community.
This guest blog post was submitted by Leah Craig.
Leah Craig is a sophomore in high school and volunteers with YVC of St. Joseph. She serves as a member on YVC’s International Youth Advisory Board.