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Stearns County Sheriff's Office
BYLINE: Dave Aeikens

Stearns County, MN

Deposit unused, expired medications safely

A month into its prescription drug drop-off program, Stearns County is hoping to attract more business.

The county sheriff’s office has four barrels in a back room of the law enforcement center that will store the drugs people drop off until they are taken to be incinerated. So far, about one-fourth of one barrel is full of old pill bottles.

“I don’t know what to expect. With the population here, there has to be unused medication getting flushed,” said Bruce Bechtold, chief deputy of the Stearns County Sheriff’s Office.

The county started the program May 1 with the environmental services department providing the financial backing and the sheriff’s department handling the prescription drugs collection and its disposal.

The idea is to get unused prescription drugs that might be misused or abused out of medicine cabinets. The county also has an environmental goal to keep the drugs out of landfills, waste treatment systems and ground water.

The federal Drug Enforcement Agency had a national drug return program in April. On that day, 323 pounds of prescription drugs came into Stearns County in drop boxes in St. Cloud, Melrose and Paynesville.

Discussions are expected to take place with city officials in Melrose and Paynesville about having a permanent drop box placed in those cities.

Cards are being printed that can be placed on pharmacy counters alerting people that they can dispose their unused prescriptions at the Stearns County Sheriff’s Office.

The drop box in the main lobby is a black metal safe that pulls open and allows someone to drop off their used drugs between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. People can remain anonymous and even peel the label off if they want, Bechtold said.

“We are not interested in who is taking what medications,” Bechtold said.

The drugs are dropped into a common office trash can and then emptied into the barrels that are behind locked doors in back.

Once the county gets four barrels, deputies will drive them to Fosston in northern Minnesota where they will be incinerated. It’s the only place licensed to burn prescription drugs in Minnesota.

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