Cedar Rapids Police Unveil Drug Drop Box

By Lee Hermiston, Reporter

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - The last time the Cedar Rapids Police Department participated in a prescription drug take back program, 185 pounds of used, unwanted or expired medications were collected.

With that hefty number in mind, the department unveiled on Friday its own drug drop box.

"There's definitely a need to have prescription drug turn-in capabilities," said police chief Wayne Jerman.

Located in the vestibule of the department's main entrance, the black and white drop box – a former post office drop box adorned with the police department's insignia – will be accessible to the public 24 hours a day, seven days a week and all year round, said Sgt. Cristy Hamblin.

Police, city and health officials who spoke at Friday's unveiling said the drop box will aid in keeping prescription drugs out of two key places – ground water in the community and the hands of people who could potentially abuse the medication.

"We want to make it safe for our community so it doesn't get into our ground water," Hamblin said.

Megan Murphy, utility communication coordinator with the city, said the former method to dispose of prescription drugs was to simply flush them down the toilet. She said ground water in the city isn't currently threatened, but that won't be the case if drugs continue to be improperly disposed.

"Ten years down the road, we're looking at a more serious issue," Murphy said.

Iowa and, specifically, Linn County, is not immune to prescription drug abuse, noted Curt Wheeler, a certified prevention specialist with the Area Substance Abuse Counsel. Typically working with children, Wheeler said the top location that teens find the prescription drugs they abuse is the home.

"That's why this is so critical," Wheeler said of the department's drop box.

Cedar Rapids is not the first area department to have its own drug drop box. Hamblin noted the department took a page out of the Marion Police Department's playbook for inspiration. The Mount Vernon and Lisbon police departments also have their own drop boxes and the Linn County Sheriff's Office and Hiawatha Police Department are not far behind in joining the drop box ranks.

Hamblin said citizens can take most of their prescription drugs to a local pharmacy to be disposed, but pharmacies cannot accept Schedule II drugs such as codeine, hydrocodone, morphine and oxycodone. The police department will accept those, as well as more illicit drugs, Hamblin said.

"If they want to drop off cocaine and marijuana, we'll take that also," she said.

Hamblin asked that no needles be dropped in the drop box, however.
Evidence technicians will be in charge of emptying the drop box. Hamblin said the drugs will be incinerated.
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