How to safely dispose of prescription drugs is something Santa Barbara County wants to hear from the public on, and the Public Health Department will be hosting two public meetings next week to do just that.
Public Health officials have stated that flushing prescription drugs down the toilet is detrimental to the environment and compromises water quality, and keeping unused drugs in the home can allow drugs to end up in the wrong hands.
Earlier this year, Santa Barbara County’s Board of Supervisors heard from Sheriff’s Department officials, who stated the current program to dispose of prescription drugs, Operation Medicine Cabinet, has maxed out department time and resources.
There are currently eight drop-off locations at sheriff’s substations across the county, which are frequently full of prescription drugs, and Sheriff’s Department employees have to drive the drugs down to Long Beach to a special incinerator with an escort of law enforcement, which costs time and money.
The drop-off boxes have been popular, and more than 32,400 pounds of drugs have been collected since 2010. Still, the county is looking to increase awareness about where the bins are and make them more accessible.
Supervisors recently asked county staff to look at other options for safe drug disposal, including drug disposal at local pharmacies.
In addition to the logistical issues with the current boxes, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency has changed the regulations that apply to the drop-off locations, requiring that they be indoors. Not all of the current sites will work, Public Health spokeswoman Susan Klein-Rothschild said.
“The distribution of bins isn’t convenient or equitable,” Klein-Rothschild said.
The disposal of prescription drugs is an issue that impacts all ages, including parents who want to protect young children from getting into medicines that could poison them, and older residents with an abundance of prescriptions, Public Health officials said.
“When seniors die, what does the family do with all these medications? It spans a wide variety of residents,” Klein-Rothschild said. “When you think about this, it affects a lot of people.”
The department is also reaching out to officials from pharmacies, hospitals, aging networks and other groups that have a stake in the issue.
“We are asking the community to help us think about this… We’re asking for some input,” she said.
Two meetings will be held next week, one in South County and one in North County.
The first will be held at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department auditorium at 300 N. San Antonio Road.
The second will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday in Santa Maria at the Public Library at 421 S. McClelland St.
Staff will take the feedback and give a presentation about the safe drug disposal alternatives to the Board of Supervisors in October.