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Home arrow News arrow Local News arrow Filling an important void

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Filling an important void

Sgt. Dave Sams of the La Grande Police Department stands in front of the drug drop box, located at police offices, 1109 K Ave. (CHRIS BAXTER/The Observer)
Sgt. Dave Sams of the La Grande Police Department stands in front of the drug drop box, located at police offices, 1109 K Ave. (CHRIS BAXTER/The Observer)

by DICK MASON / The Observer

Union County residents now have an answer for a once perplexing question.

How can they dispose of prescription medications they or their families no longer need?

The La Grande Police Department and the Union County Sheriff’s Department have teamed up to provide the answer. The law enforcement agencies have set up a drug drop box in the lobby of their offices, which are located at 1109 K Avenue.  

“People wanted a safe place they could bring prescription medications to,” said La Grande Police Chief Brian Harvey.

Anyone can deposit medications into the drop box round-the-clock, although people are encouraged to bring them in during office hours, which are from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays. People coming in outside of office hours must notify a dispatcher via an intercom system in the hallway outside the lobby. The dispatcher will then unlock the lobby door.

No questions will be asked of anyone bringing in medications. 

The drop box is a large metal structure that can’t be moved because it is secured to the floor. The lobby it occupies is monitored by security cameras round the clock.

The drop box fills an important void because previously people had few — if any — convenient options for disposing of prescription medications. Putting them in the trash is discouraged because medications contaminate landfills and dropping them down drains pollutes water.

Still, it is important to dispose of medications no longer needed, Harvey said, since they might be consumed by curious children, resulting in a tragic overdose, or stolen by addicts. 

“We want to keep them off the streets,” Harvey said.

The prescription medications the police chief is most concerned with include oxycodone, valium and
methadone. 

“All are often abused,” Harvey said. “There are a lot of fatal methadone overdoses.” 

People who often find themselves with unneeded medications on hand include members of families who have lost a loved one who had been ill.

“The person may have been taking a lot of prescription medicines and the family now does not know what to do with them,” Harvey said. 

All types of drugs can be deposited in the drop box. Liquid medications brought to the station must be in capped bottles. Syringes are prohibited to protect the people who will later be handing materials in the drop box. 

“We don’t want someone to be poked by them since they are a biohazard,” Harvey said, noting that dirty syringes can spread disease. 

All medications brought to the disposal center will be disposed of in an incinerator. 

The Union County Sheriff’s Department and the La Grande Police Department began working on getting a drop box after it was suggested by Darin Larvik, the operations manager of City Garbage Service. Larvik said people would often bring “schedule drugs,” the kind regulated by the federal Controlled Substances Act, to City Garbage Service. The medications made Larvik nervous because in some cases it was not legal for him to receive them. Larvik would arrange for the drugs to be taken to the sheriff and police departments, which then disposed of them.

Larvik said he was struck by how fast Harvey and Union County Sheriff Boyd Rasmussen acted when he presented the idea of a drug drop box.

“I was really impressed with how quickly they responded,” he said.

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