Voices for Health
The Voices for Health Blog is an opportunity for the San Juan Island Prevention Coalition's members and partners to speak to an array of prevention topics such as healthy choices, substance abuse, intervention, treatment, and recovery. The goal of the Coalition is to strengthen community collaboration to reduce substance abuse among youth
You can now get more involved with the San Juan Island Prevention Coaltion and keep up-to-date on all the great stuff they’ve been doing in our community. Visit them on Facebook. Click here to see their page!
Steve Gresham, SJC Prevention Coordinator, snapped a shot of this sign last week. I think it speaks perfectly to the work of prevention.
Drug companies generated over $4 billion in sales in Washington State last year. These same companies spent $450 million promoting sales in 2008. Because of such an immense amount of medicines sold each year, it is important that WA State provides a safe and sustainable medication take-back program. To do so, it would cost drug companies less than two cents per container of medication sold.
Lobbyists are working around the clock in our very own State Capital in Olympia, hoping that the drug producers selling medicines in Washington State will soon be required to provide and finance a convenient and safe return and disposal program for unwanted prescription and over-the-counter medications. If approved, the 2011 Secure Medication Take-Back Bill would not only help keep our environment clean and save the state millions of dollars in emergency room costs, but would also save people’s lives due to fatal poisonings and deaths. Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of accidental death in WA State.
If approved, this bill would be run by the WA Medicine Return Association, a non-profit that is managed and financed by drug producers. They would be responsible for providing one drop-off site per county; pre-paid mailers where drop-off sites are not available; and paying for collection containers, supplies, transportation, disposal, and promotion.
San Juan County is one of 12 counties in the state operating a take-back program. Despite the grant funding recently received to install and label the drop boxes, more support will be needed to make this program sustainable.
San Juan County Sheriff, Rob Nou shares his support of the county’s recently installed drop boxes. “I think it’s a great idea and it seems to be really well received. The island communities are really embracing the take-back. I think it’s kind of exceeded our expectations.”
It’s important to give credit where credit is due. The County Sheriff’s Office is in charge of collecting, packaging, and transporting the take-back medications to the special high temperature incinerators. These facilities are located in Spokane and Portland. A big thank you to our Sheriff’s Office!
San Juan County Prevention Coordinator, Steve Gresham states his excitement for such a great program, “I have been surprised to see all the public support for this program. I believe that the drug take-back program is for the good of the community.”
Medication drop boxes are now installed at the Sheriffs’ station on San Juan, Orcas, and Lopez Islands and at Ray’s Pharmacy on Orcas. Friday Harbor Drug should have their box ready for drop offs the first week in March. Lopez Island Pharmacy will install their drop box in April when they move to their new location.
To learn more about the Medicine Take-Back Bill, visit www.TakeBackYourMeds.org. For questions about the 2011 legislation, email Margaret Shield, Local Hazardous Waste Management Program at email@example.com.
Visit the SJI Prevention Coalition Voices for Health Blog at http://blogs.sanjuanjournal.com/voicesforhealth/.
Article by Carrie Unpingco
Media Coordinator, SJI Prevention Coalition
Getting rid of unwanted drugs just got a whole lot easier in San Juan County! You can now drop off your used and unused medications at six different locations. The pharmacy and sheriff’s station on San Juan, Orcas, and Lopez Islands will each house one box, available to anyone to anonymously discard of their medications or illicit drugs. All the drop stations will be installed and ready the middle of February. A list of what you can and cannot discard, along with specific instructions on how to dispose of the drugs, will be posted on each box.
Items not permitted in drop boxes: Needles/syringes, thermometers, IV bags or bloody/infectious waste, personal care products, opened EpiPens, hydrogen peroxide/other chemicals, aerosol cans, mercury products, iodine solutions, radioactives, business waste, and empty containers.
Similar to recycling, if you want people to follow through, it needs to be easy. When dropping off medications it’s important to first remove them from the pill containers and place them in a Ziplock baggie. You can mix all your meds in the same bag and simply drop them in the box. Empty bottles or other packaging needs to be discarded at home in the trash. It is suggested that labels are removed to protect your privacy.
Fortunately, the pharmacy board approved the use of the drop boxes. In addition, the DEA is in charge of disposing the medications properly. Even though the boxes are constructed with the optimal security in mind and are similar to a safe, they will be emptied once a day.
As we know, it’s not easy to put something like this into effect. About two years ago Brian Rader, San Juan County Pollution Prevention Specialist, brought this idea to the surface. He felt that medications improperly being disposed of were an environmental hazard. Brian Rader states, “Proper medication disposal is important for two reasons. First, by providing for a free and easy way to get rid of these materials, they are less likely to end up in the hands of kids or other people that may abuse them. Second, we really don’t want prescription and over-the-counter medications, most of which (including aspirin) are hazardous waste under state law, to end up in surface water bodies or, worse yet, our drinking water supplies. Our waste-water treatment plants are designed to treat biological waste only. These pharmaceutical and over-the-counter drugs are not treated in these plants. Instead, they simply pass through, untreated, into receiving water bodies, like our harbors and bays.”
Once it was recognized that improper disposal was really affecting our water and most importantly our children, the idea that something really needed to be done took off. Fortunately, the Methamphetamine Initiative Grant was awarded between the SJC Sheriff’s Office and the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs. The purchase was allowed because the boxes were placed at the Sheriff substations for take-back of all drugs. The grant also funded officer overtime for meth-related cases as well as officer education. All the islands’ boxes, including installation and labels, were approximately $5000.
This could not have been made possible without the hard and diligent work of many people. Brian Rader; Ray’s Pharmacy; Friday Harbor Drug; Lopez Island Pharmacy; Undersheriff, Jon Zerby; San Juan County Prevention Coordinator, Steve Gresham; former Sheriff Bill Cumming; current Sheriff Rob Nou; and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Thank you to Cara Gresham, who coordinated last year’s monthly take-back programs at Friday Harbor Drug as the summer Intern for the SJI Prevention Coalition. The Coalition and Executive Coordinator, Cynthia Stark-Wickman, have also supported each and every person involved with this huge undertaking. Everyone’s time and commitment will make a huge difference for our entire island community. A special thank you to Rick Hughes, the owner of Ray’s Pharmacy on Orcas Island, who helped write the protocol that made this happen.
After meeting with Jon Zerby and Steve Gresham this past week, I was again reassured why living here is so great. Our community is proactive; making sure good ideas are acted on. All too often news and media focus on the negative, but our county does a great job focusing on the good news.
To find out more about the 2011 Secure Medicine Take Back Bill Policy Overview and the work of Lisa Sepanski from King County, please visit: www.TakeBackYourMeds.org.
The coalition was founded in 2002 by members of the San Juan County Health and Community Services Advisory Board following a series of alcohol-related motor vehicle crashes on the island. In March 2003, they submitted an application for Drug Free Communities Support Program funding.
Quote for 2011 from Cynthia Stark-Wickman: “San Juan County has been very fortunate to have Drug Free Communities Support Program funding for three islands: Orcas (2000-2010), San Juan (2003 – 2013), and Lopez (2010 – 2015/2020). Each island has the ability to address the local conditions of their specific island, while working together county and state issues including social hosting and providing alcohol to minors, and state laws that increase or decrease access to alcohol. As coalitions working together for the good of our islands, we also benefit our individual communities that have their unique qualities. Collaboration is key, within each coalition, and between the coalitions!”
Most of us have heard about the San Juan Island Prevention Coalition in the local media and their work in our community, but we have never taken the time to really find out what they strive to accomplish. There’s no better topic for this week’s Voices for Health column in the Journal.
Let’s get technical. The word coalition comes from the Latin word “coalitus,” which means “to grow together.” A coalition is a diverse group of individuals and organizations that work together to reach a common goal. The goals of coalitions often include developing public policy, influencing people’s behaviors, and helping to build a healthy community (GLSEN, Inc, 2010).
The SJI Prevention Coalition works together for a common purpose. We are a non-profit 501-C3 organization that is run by a board of 15 community leaders representing an array of sectors among the community’s social and health systems. The goals of the coalition are to reduce substance abuse among youth; and to establish and strengthen collaboration among the community, creating a community culture supporting healthy choices and responsible behaviors to prevent and reduce substance abuse among youth.
Executive Coordinator, Cynthia Stark-Wickman, and the Board of Trustees all work exceptionally hard to help implement their goals.
The twelve coalition sectors represent the community and range from the Friday Harbor School District to the local Presbyterian Church. We encourage parents to get involved, simply for the reason that they are parents. Together, these segments make up the coalition. It cannot be forgotten that our entire community is the partnership.
Our coalition supports many activities in the community. Here are just a few examples of such:
- Project Grad Nite (FHHS Graduation Celebration)
- New Year’s Eve Community Celebration
- Spring community forum
- Representation at the county fair
- Challenge Program and support of LifeSkills Training
From my work during the past three years with the island’s coalition, I often ask myself, “Is it working?” and, “When will we really see that our efforts have been effective?” Yes, the efforts are working. What people don’t understand is that the outcomes of prevention work aren’t immediate. It may take years of extensive work to see results.
What we tend to forget is that the more invested in prevention work, the more time and money saved in the long run. Despite this, it’s often difficult to wait for the outcomes, but it’s proven to work. As a community, let’s help support the SJI Prevention Coalition. Attend this year’s New Year’s Eve celebration! You’ll enjoy yourself and you might find interest in becoming a volunteer.
To find out more about the work of the San Juan Island Prevention Coalition, call Cynthia Stark-Wickman at 378-9683 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also visit the Voices for Health Blog at: http://blogs.sanjuanjournal.com/voicesforhealth/.
Carrie is the SJI Prevention Coalition’s Media Coordinator and works as Administrative Assistant at Inter Island Medical Center.
On Wednesday, October 6 from 10am-2pm you can drop off your used/unused medications at Friday Harbor Drug. This provides for safe disposal of all your prescriptions. The previous two medication take back days have gone really well. If you’ve forgotten to drop yours off, be sure to do so on October 6! If you have questions, please call the prevention coalition at 378-9683 or email Cynthia Stark-Wickman at email@example.com.