Sept. 23 , 2010

Virginia Guard Counterdrug Program supporting DEA National Take-Back Day 

By Cotton Puryear        
Virginia Dept. of Military Affairs

RICHMOND, Va. — The Virginia National Guard’s Counterdrug Program is supporting Virginia's participation in the first-ever U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration National Take-Back Day, a program in which communities will provide collection sites to allow citizens to safely dispose of unused, unwanted or expired medications, to help prevent pharmaceutical diversion and abuse, as well as prevent their contamination of the environment due to oft used improper disposal procedures.  The event will be held Saturday, Sept. 25, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in more than 75 communities across the Commonwealth. 

More information about National Take-Back Day and a list of medication drop off sites in the Commonwealth is available online at www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/takeback/index.html or www.dea.gov

“The Richmond DEA office approached the Virginia National Counterdrug program shortly after receiving the National Take Back Day initiative, and we agreed to provide one officer and one NCO for 60 days to plan, resource, and market the event,” said Lt. Col. Charlton Dunn, coordinator for Virginia’s Counterdrug Program. “Virginia Guard personnel coordinated with other partner organizations such as the Virginia State Police, local law enforcement agencies, the Governor’s Office for Substance Abuse Prevention, the Virginia Department of Education’s Safe and Drug Free Schools program, and the Department of Environmental Quality as well as a host of non-governmental organizations in developing and publishing a comprehensive operations order for the event.  We also are supporting logistical planning and marketing of the event.”

Dunn said the Counterdrug program is providing six Soldiers and three trucks to support DEA collection, consolidation, and transportation of the drugs to an incinerator for proper destruction. Additional personnel and transportation assets will be available for vehicle recovery and additional transport capacity if needed, he said.

“Drug abuse is directly related to increased crime rates, overdose deaths and emergency room visits,” said Gov. Bob McDonnell in a news release. “In Virginia, drug deaths are comparable to the number of traffic fatalities each year. We want to change the equation by taking preventative steps, including encouraging Virginians to get rid of old medications. People should not hold on to expired or unused medications, particularly in homes with children, teens and seniors which are especially vulnerable to this danger.”

Important information about National Take-Back Day from the Governor’s news release:
- The program is anonymous and free
- Prescription and over-the-counter medications are accepted
- Intra-venous solutions, injectables, and needles will not be accepted
- Illicit substances such as marijuana or methamphetamine are not a part of this initiative  
- Medications may be kept in original containers for disposal on National Take-Back Day

Public health officials and environmental quality experts recommend the following action steps for the ongoing disposal of medications:
- Participate in community and national pharmaceutical take back programs
- Remove unused, unwanted or expired prescription and over-the-counter drugs from their original container and mix with an undesirable substance such as used coffee grounds or kitty litter then place in nondescript sealable bags or containers such as empty cans or sealable bags for disposal 

Public health officials now call prescription drug abuse an epidemic. It is the number two category of substance abuse, behind marijuana abuse which is number one.  

The Virginia Department of Health Professions, which houses the Virginia Prescription Monitoring Program, is spreading the word about National Take-Back Day with Virginia's healthcare professionals, agencies and members of the General Assembly.

Dunn said the Department of Education Safe and Drug Free Schools program has helped get the word out through newsletters to all school districts and added the Department of Environmental Quality has been working to raise awareness and developed the proper disposal techniques flyer to educate citizens how to properly dispose of drugs when no Take Back program is available.  The Governor’s Office of Substance Abuse Prevention was invaluable in raising awareness at senior leadership levels and the Virginia State Police are both playing a critical role in the distribution of supplies and as community drop off sites.

“Virginia Guard personnel coordinated with scores of non-governmental organizations and interest groups who share a concern over drug abuse, safety in the home, environmental stewardship, and clean drinking water to spread the message as far and wide as possible,” Dunn said. “We handed out close to 500 DEA Take Back Flyers with proper drug disposal directions at the Air Guard 400 NASCAR race and we've been incorporating the flyers in supported schools and at community events such as a static helicopter displays.”

Dunn noted that “DEA has provided excellent leadership and has welcomed our Soldiers to their team without hesitation. We appreciate the opportunity to support the DEA and the Commonwealth for this important mission.”

Additional information:

Governor McDonnell Encourages Virginians to Participate in First-Ever National Take-Back Day on September 25th
http://www.governor.virginia.gov/News/viewRelease.cfm?id=394

National Guard Counterdrug supports ‘Operation Medicine Cabinet’ this week
http://www.ng.mil/news/archives/2010/09/092110-Counterdrug.aspx

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