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Addiction in Franklin County

Drug take-back bags almost a ton for the incinerator

Erving Chief of Police Christopher Blair with some of the medications collected in that town during an unused prescription drug collection held April 26. 
(Photo courtesy of the Northwestern District Attorney's Office.)

Erving Chief of Police Christopher Blair with some of the medications collected in that town during an unused prescription drug collection held April 26. (Photo courtesy of the Northwestern District Attorney's Office.) Purchase photo reprints »

In Franklin County, 441 pounds of unwanted medications will be kept out of the hands of drug users, curious children, or the groundwater after Saturday’s drug take-back day.

According to the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office, the one-day event collected a total of 1,966 pounds of drugs in Franklin and Hampshire counties and Athol, the lion’s share in Hampshire county.

Beginning with twice-yearly collection days, free, no-questions-asked drug disposal is now a constant in Franklin county. The green mailbox-style collection boxes in the Greenfield, Montague, Athol, Orange, Deerfield, Erving and Sunderland police stations are open year-round, but the take-back day continues as a promotion.

Coordinator Christy “Chris” Geffin of the DA’s office said the program has cut back to once a year since the boxes were installed, but the spring collection continues, in order to draw awareness to the boxes, and now to draw awareness to the opiate crisis, Geffin said.

“Get them out of the house, don’t let kids get their hands on them because the easiest place to get them is out of somebody’s medicine cabinet and that’s where teens, probably ages 12 up to 20s are grabbing them because they’re there, they’re targets, they’re easy,” Geffin said.

The permanent boxes collected 3,200 pounds last year in both counties, compared to 1,966 in a single day, and Geffin said many stopping by the drop-off locations Saturday were unaware of the permanent collection boxes.

Geffin said some Franklin pharmacies are beginning to staple information cards to their out-going prescription bags with disposal information.

Geffin said it was impossible to say what percentage of the drugs collected are of the dangerous or addictive varieties, pointing to Saturday’s stand-out item — a 25-pound jar of loose pills.

In Franklin and Hampshire counties and Athol, the effort is sponsored by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office, the county sheriffs and other local agencies, and the one-day events and collection boxes have collected more than 7 tons of unwanted and outdated prescription drugs since 2011, according to the DA’s office.

Saturday’s collection has already been incinerated in the furnaces of Covanta Springfield, also known as the Pioneer Valley Resource Recovery Facility, in Agawam. Geffin said the waste-burning company takes the drug deliveries, supervised by police, free of charge.

You can reach Chris Curtis at: ccurtis@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 257

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