Flashback: Barrels will collect unused prescriptions

Barrels will collect unused prescriptions

By Jim Totten
April 19, 2011

The latest tools to combat prescription drug abuse in Livingston County can't be missed. They're bright red, big and weight just over 300 pounds.

Residents will be able to place unused prescriptions -- pills and liquids -- into the collection containers with no questions asked. The collection will start April 30.

Volunteers with the Livingston County Community Alliance recently dropped off a barrel at the Brighton post of the Michigan State Police and the Livingston County Sheriff's Department. Shawn James, a senior at Kensington Woods High School, created the containers out of thick, steel pipe pieces that used to be used for an industrial chimney, and he's in the process of making several more for other locations in the county.

Terry Murray, who organized the effort, said unused prescription drugs are a "temptation with our youth."

"We have to take care of our kids," Murray said, adding it's a tragedy that several young residents died of drug overdoses in recent years.

"When I became aware of the statistics around adolescent alcohol and drug use, I was shocked," said Murray, the owner of the Brighton House restaurant. He said he helped start a concerned parents' group three years ago to address this issue.

"The biggest problem we have here is the parents. They're just in denial," Murray said.

He said he learned that people often use prescription medications, which many people have at home, before moving onto harder drugs.

Last year, the county collected 106 pounds of prescription pills during one collection day.

The community alliance is a nonprofit organization dedicated to getting residents to take action against substance abuse in the county, especially among the youth. The group supports Students Against Drunk Driving, organizes an alternative Friday night for teenagers and hosts the annual Run Against Drugs event.

"I think it's great when you have concerned residents who volunteer to take this on," community alliance coordinator Kaitlin Fink said. "We couldn't do this without them."

The steel pipe materials were donated by Regal Recycling, and Campbell's Collision painted the containers. James, who plans to pursue a career in welding, said he's making the containers as part of his community service project for his school. He said he had to cut and grind down the tops and weld on the handles. He also installed the baffles to prevent people from reaching inside and taking out the prescription drugs.

First Lt. Joel Allen of the Brighton post said he was glad to be part of this effort.

"Prescription drug abuse has become a major public safety and public health issue," he said. "This drop-off program is an example of a great community effort which addresses a far-reaching problem."

Joe Carney, a volunteer with community alliance, said part of the goal is getting rid of these drugs in an environmentally safe way. All the drugs will be taken to a federally approved incinerator.