COOS COUNTY — It’s time to clean out the medicine cabinets because the annual Drug Take Back Day is coming soon.

For the sixth year in a row, Bay Area Hospital and fellow sponsors are inviting community members to drop off unused medicine and used syringes for proper and free disposal.

On March 30 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Coos Bay Fire Station, people can drive right through and leave containers of pills and needles behind.

“The Drug Disposal Coalition is working hard to expand drug drop-off sites or medication sites,” said Kate Frame, prescription drug overdose prevention coordinator for Advanced Health, which is one of the sponsors for the event. “We want people to dispose of drugs properly to reduce pill diversion, or pills getting into the wrong hands or the risk of a lethal dose being in your cupboard that someone can get into. We don’t want people to flush them either.”

The idea behind the event began with BAH’s head pharmacist six years ago. When it first started, the event took place at the North Bend City Council Chambers and the DEA, as well as local law enforcement, were required to be there.

“It was a rigid process,” said Barbara Bauder, chief development officer for the hospital. “We did it that way for one or two years.”

But then came the Drug Disposal Coalition, comprised of SCINT, law enforcement from both North Bend and Coos Bay, BAH, the North Bend Medical Center, Coos Health and Wellness and Advanced Health. The group met to discuss the importance of continuing the event and how it would help get these drugs out of medicine cabinets that are either expired or unused before they are stolen, sold or used by someone else or disposed of incorrectly.

“You shouldn’t hold onto your unused medications,” Frame said. “They were prescribed for a time period and that time has passed, so get rid of them. If you need them again, your doctor will prescribe more.”

It wasn’t until last year that the event took on even more than just unused medicine, but also used needles.

“They are difficult to dispose,” Bauder said. “People can’t just throw them away. One year when we weren’t accepting needles, maybe two years ago, a women brought in 40 tied containers full of needles because people just don’t know what to do with them.”

After that, a grant was received allowing the event to also take those needles.

Just last year, the event took in 197 pounds of needles and over 200 pounds of over the counter and prescription drugs.

“We know it’s important,” Bauder said. “This year, we are taking needles again. Unfortunately, the needles we get, that are important to take back, are not the needles being found at parks and beaches and the side of the road. I don’t think people doing heroin bring them back, though we wish they would because people find them in places where kids play.”

Though Drug Take Back Day is successful in raising awareness on properly disposing unused pills, there are two permanent receptacles that take that kind of unwanted medicine throughout the year. Both look like mailboxes, but sit inside the lobby at each police station in Coos Bay and North Bend.

“When our Emergency Department is finished, there will be a third there,” Bauder said. “Right now, both are emptied once a week. Every other month, or once a quarter, two law enforcement individuals take them up to be incinerated.”

For Frame at Advanced Health, she has seen important conversations start in the community since the Drug Take Back Day began.

“People are take advantage of disposing medication,” she said. “It has helped bring the community together to reduce the number of pills and is opening the conversation for safe needle disposal because we are seeing an excess of used syringes all over town. This event is raising a platform for the community and taking hundreds and hundreds of pounds of medication, including prescription opiates, out of the cycle.”

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Reporter Jillian Ward can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 235, or by email at jillian.ward@theworldlink.com. Follow her on Twitter: @JE_Wardwriter.