Woodford County offers safe drug disposal

Catharine Schaidle

When Mary Vallas' employer, Roanoke Pharmacy, initiated a drug disposal program, she wasted no time taking advantage of it.

The East Peorian said she dropped off some no longer used, maintenance-type medication such as muscle relaxants.

"It's a safety issue," Vallas said. "In the past, what I did, which I didn't really care for, was to sprinkle the medication around my garbage can so that if animals or children should get into it, they may not be able to get the whole thing. I have a 2 1/2-year-old and a very large dog at home."

Woodford County is the first county in the area to develop a countywide prescription drug disposal program. Every pharmacy is participating.

The actual program was patterned after one designed by Pontiac Township High School students more than a year ago, said Steve Crawford of Roanoke Pharmacy, who helped implement it in Woodford County.

The program is now in full swing. "The Metamora Pharmacy has two locations in Metamora and Germantown Hills; there's CVS in Eureka, Doc's Drugs in El Paso, and some of the national ones like Wal-Mart and Walgreens" participating, Crawford said.

Under the program, residents will bring in their prescription drugs and dump them in a secured container set up especially for the purpose.

However, pharmacies cannot accept controlled substances such as Adderall, for treatment of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Those have to go to the Woodford County Sheriff's Department in Eureka.

A few people have already been taking advantage of the drop box on the first floor of the Sheriff's Department, said Sheriff Jim Pierceall.

"I think it's a really good program," he said. "We don't want the drugs ending up in our water supply and even more we don't want them falling into the wrong hands."

While there have been a few instances of prescription drug abuse throughout the county, the numbers have been low and the sheriff wants to keep it that way.

A staff member from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency will collect the drugs and dispose of them in a certified incinerator that will not release any harmful substances into the atmosphere.

Thanks to a large roadside sign promoting the new program, Metamora Pharmacy in Metamora recently received a visit from Pontiac Township High School students who were on their way to give a presentation to another community about the drug disposal program.

"We were driving along Metamora when we saw this huge sign along (Illinois 116), and the kids wanted to go in and say hello," said Paul Ritter, the school's ecology teacher. "They visited with the staff at the pharmacy and took pictures."

Marlin Weekley of Metamora Pharmacy said the program began two weeks ago and is going very well.

"We actually had to go out and get another storage container because the first one was already full and the EPA people weren't going to come until the end of the week," he said.

Weekley is past president of the Illinois Pharmaceuticals Association and belongs to other industry-related organizations. He's hoping to get the program going statewide.

"We're testing it out now," Weekley said. "But there are some technical and coordinating challenges which we have to iron out first."

Catharine Schaidle can be reached at (309) 686-3290 orcschaidle@pjstar.com