October 23, 2021

Drug takeback event in county collects old, unused meds

Kevin Conlon/city editor

Cortlandville firefighters assist in a drug takeback program Saturday at their main station on Route 13.

Julie Marion was driving past the Cortlandville fire station on Route 13 on Saturday afternoon on the way to the bank when she saw signs advertising a drug takeback program.

She immediately turned around and headed back to her home in Cortland to pick up some expired medication she had been collecting in a closet.

“I kept putting them in the closet for five years,” she said after dropping them at the fire station. “I had a lot to drop off.”

Cortlandville firefighters accepted medication from more than 100 cars while collection sites in Homer, Marathon and Cincinnatus also took in drugs, all destined for disposal later at an Oswego County incinerator.

Cortland County Sheriff Mark Helms and some of the officers on his staff were on hand to oversee the event, which was authorized by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration.

“It works great,” Helms said of the periodic collection days.

The turnout seemed larger than usual, he said, crediting the sunny weather and additional publicity as the event coincided with National Drug Enforcement Administration Day, which promoted similar events across the country.

Sara Watrous, a project director for Cortland Area Communities That Care, conducted a survey of those who had dropped off medication and discovered about half were not aware the county has drop boxes for medication available year-round.

Kiosks are located at the Sheriff’s Office, Cortland City Police Department, Homer Village Police Department, SUNY Cortland Police Department and Guthrie Cortland Medical Center emergency room.

Homer Police Chief Robert Pitman said Saturday that there is a camera at his station on James Street for security at the medication drop box. He said he worries the camera might discourage people from dropping off medication.

“I don’t even check the camera,” he said. “It’s a safe disposal. We don’t want them (medication) on the streets. I don’t care who’s dropping them off.”

He said there is a kiosk for dropping off medication inside the police headquarters and one outside for used hypodermic needles.

“We put on this event to keep people alive,” said Alex Mikowski, a prevention specialist and social worker for Family and Children Counseling Services.

The event kept medication from ending up in the wrong hands and allowed organizers to promote the medication collection program and another that makes naloxone available to help stop overdoses caused by opioids, Mikowski said.

She noted that at an educational program last week in McGraw, a young woman learned to administer naloxone after her grandmother overdosed on pain medication, but survived.

“She was trained and brought some home so hopefully her grandma will have some more protection,” Mikowski said.