Sheriff making changes to drug take-back efforts

The Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department temporarily will stop its ongoing Drug Take Back Program after an employee was stuck with an improperly secured needle dropped in the box, Sheriff Matt Myers said.

Since March of 2014, the sheriff’s department has been allowing the public to drop off unwanted prescriptions in the take-back program box at the lobby front desk.

Up until now, items placed in the box were manually carried to a secure location out of the reach of the public, Myers said.

But within the past month, a male employee was taken to Columbus Regional Hospital for various tests after being stuck with a hypodermic needle while carrying the items, the sheriff said.

“There have been times when other deputies get stuck by a needle under different circumstances,” Myers said. “We have a procedure to make sure when this happens they remain healthy.”

But the incident illustrates that current practices need to be modified, Myers said.

In addition to the unsecured needle, employees have also found Fentanyl patches in the drop-off box. Fentanyl is an adhesive patch that delivers a potent pain medicine through the skin that can cause severe breathing problems or even death to those who haven’t been prescribed the medicine, the sheriff said.

Even after the patch is used the medicine remains in it, and by someone dropping a patch of this powerful, dangerous narcotic into the drop box employees are put at risk, Myers said.

Instead of allowing the public to drop off items, the sheriff’s department will go back to sponsoring drug take back days four times a year like those held at Fair Oaks Mall prior to 2014, Myers said.

“We are, by no means, giving up on providing this service every day,” Myers said. “This is a very successful program, and we have gotten a lot of items brought in. We just have to revamp how we do things.”

Some law enforcement agencies have specialized containers within a law enforcement agency lobby, which allows medicines to be dropped off — but not removed — in a way that a staff member doesn’t have to touch them, Myers said.

But more research needs to be done into both cost and location, and exploring additional options such as setting up a second drop-off location at Columbus Regional Hospital, the sheriff said.

A policy on whether the department should accept hypodermic needles also will be discussed, Myers said.

While he expects a permanent drug disposal service will be back no later than a year from now, Myers said his department will not accept medications from businesses such as pharmacies, Myers said.

The service always was intended only for residents as a means to prevent home burglaries, Myers said, and to keep one person from stealing drugs prescribed to a family member.

“But within the past couple of months, we’ve had pharmacies bringing in narcotics, and we’ve ended up with bags and boxes of stuff,” the sheriff said.

Businesses should properly manage their drug waste under federal and state hazardous waste regulations, Myers said.

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Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.