Colorado's attorney general and a quartet of mayors from around the Front Range said they are hoping metal drug collection kiosks set up in the back of 11 Walgreens pharmacies will help protect teens, cut back on the national drug crisis and protect the state's water supply.
"Folks really need this kind of program around the state of Colorado," Attorney General Cynthia Coffman said during an April 12 press conference at a Thornton Walgreens at Colorado Boulevard and 120th Avenue. "Walgreens has taken a lead in helping us deal with prescription drug abuse by providing a safe and convenient way to dispose of prescription medications and controlled substances."
Coffman was joined by Thornton Mayor Heidi Williams, Greenwood Village Mayor Ron Rakowsky, Wheat Ridge Mayor Joyce Jay and Aurora Mayor pro tem Angela Lawson.
Seventy-one percent of people nationally who reportedly abused prescription drugs obtained them from a relative, Coffman said.
"In many cases, they were in a medicine cabinet that was easily accessible," she said. "We know this can be the beginning of a lifelong habit."
One solution is to get rid of drugs when they're no longer needed.
Perri Schneider, Walgreens' Colorado health care supervisor, said the company has installed the metal kiosks in the back of 11 stores around the state to do that. People can drop off unused or expired prescription medicine safely and securely with no questions asked. The program is part of a national effort that placed 550 boxes in Walgreens around the country beginning last fall.
"I think we'd like to have these in all of our stores nationwide," Schneider said. "But for now, to roll them out in every state, they've started with 11 in Colorado and some in every state."
The boxes have been in place in Colorado and nationally since September, but the April 12 press conference was their official debut in Colorado.
"They've placed them strategically to be as convenient for the customer as possible," Schneider said.
Convenience is a big deal, Coffman said, and it's important for people to associate disposing of old medicine in the same places where they first picked them up.
"We hope to introduce a new behavior in Colorado," Coffman said. "We want people to get into the habit of bringing their medications back to the place where they got them. It's a simple idea, but one that could have a very valuable impact and save lives in our state."
The 11 boxes in Colorado Walgreens are among 73 similar boxes at other locations around the state, Coffman said. Prescription medicine collection boxes can be found at some hospitals and police stations and at some private pharmacies.
A complete list of collection box locations, as well as a map of the state, is available at www.takemedsback.org.
Thornton Mayor Williams said her city's police department hosts regular drug take-back events, and this is a good supplement.
"Maybe it's a bit daunting, or just out of the way, to go to the police department," she said. "I hope people will come in here and drop off their excess medication while they are shopping and decrease the accessibility that we've seen."
Wheat Ridge Mayor Jay thanked the company for putting the collection point in her city, close to two senior citizen communities.
"You can bet that those medicine cabinets have a lot of drugs in them, outdated or not, which just creates more confusion for seniors as well," she said.
Greenwood Village's Rakowsky said the boxes are important for environmental reasons, as well. Most people's method for disposing of old medicine involves dumping it down the toilet bowl, but that can put all kinds of chemicals into the watershed.
"It's very important to protect our water supply, and this is one way to protect it," Rakowsky said. "Please, keep that in mind, too."