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Durango Police Department hosts drive-thru drugs drop-off

National Drug Take Back Day a campaign to encourage safe disposal of unused prescription medications
Durango Police Commander Casey Malone hands a driver a piece of candy after the driver dropped off unused prescription medication at the DPD substation on 545 Wilson Gulch Drive. The police department hosted a drive-thru drop-off from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday for National Drug Take Back Day, an awareness campaign organized by the United States Drug Enforcement Administration and hosted twice a year. (Christian Burney/Durango Herald)

The United States Drug Enforcement Administration’s National Drug Take Back Day, an event held twice a year to raise awareness of the dangers of addiction to prescription medications, played out locally Saturday with the Durango Police Department.

Residents were invited to drop off expired or unused prescription medications at the police department’s substation at 545 Wilson Gulch Drive in the Three Springs area.

The awareness day is normally held in April and October, said Kim Wall, property and evidence technician for the police department. In October, residents collectively dropped off nearly 120 pounds of prescription medications with another hour of the event left. By the end of the day, police gathered about 150 pounds of prescription medications.

But on Saturday, just 13 pounds of prescription pills were collected by police during the event, which was held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., she said.

By late morning, the addiction awareness campaign appeared to be getting off to a slow start, but Casey Malone, commander at DPD, was optimistic that more cars would roll through the drive-thru drop-off center at the substation in the afternoon.

Despite the low turnout, the officers were happy to give residents an opportunity to dump their unneeded medications.

Wall said no questions are asked of residents who turn up with medications to dispose of.

“We don’t question them,” she said. “... We don’t investigate what they’re giving us.”

The point of the awareness campaign is to encourage the public to “remove unneeded medications from their homes as a measure of preventing medication misuse and opioid addiction from ever starting,” according to the DEA. Police aren’t interested in questioning people about the prescription drugs in their possession when they are participating in the campaign.

“We have no way to tell (if the drugs were obtained illicitly),” Wall said. “It’d be great if somebody had a bunch of fentanyl and they dumped it (at the substation).”

She said people who have participated often share why they are dumping their medications. Oftentimes, they had a surgery years ago and eventually stopped using their prescription. Other times, someone has a death in the family and the deceased’s medicine needs to be disposed of.

The DEA says on its National Drug Take Back Day webpage that unused prescription drugs often “find their way into the wrong hands” that can lead to tragic outcomes.

Malone spoke to that concept, framing it from the perspective of the fentanyl crisis.

“As we’re seeing all over the country, fentanyl is extremely dangerous and it’s fatal,” he said.

Young children, for example, tend to pick things up off the ground and put them in their mouths.

“Imagine a child doing that with something as lethal as fentanyl,” he said.

He said the outcome would be terrible.

A similar situation was apparently avoided in Bayfield Middle School on Monday, according to Leon Hanhardt, Bayfield School District superintendent.

A single counterfeit pill suspected to be fentanyl was discovered in the middle school locker room on Monday. The Bayfield Marshal’s Office was called and an investigation is ongoing.

Marshal Joseph McIntyre said a student discovered the pill on the floor of the locker room and made the decision to tell a teacher about it.

Durango Police Chief Bob Brammer said in an interview on Friday that fentanyl is propagating itself across the country, including in Colorado. He said a “huge” debate is unfolding in the state Senate around legislation on new laws that will help law enforcement adapt to the opioid crisis.

“Any opiate – fentanyl is just the most powerful one that we see today - but any opiate that we can get off the street and away from people who shouldn’t have it, or from kids who don’t know any better or what have you, it’s going to make the community safer for sure,” Malone said.

Brammer called National Drug Take Back Day a great program. He said DPD has participated in the awareness campaign for a number of years and he considers it a “great opportunity” for unused prescription medications to be collected and disposed of properly.

“Because the last thing we want to do is have those go back out into the community,” he said. “That’s kind of where some of this opioid epidemic started, because of over-prescription of opioid medications and the illicit use of them.”

The drugs collected by the police department are then collected by a DEA agent. The DEA handles disposal of the drugs, Malone said.


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