When the Putnam PRIDE coalition was brainstorming a unique idea to present at the CADCA Forum “Idea Fair” this past February, they didn’t need to look much further than the senior living centers in their community. In 2015, coalition Chairman and Deputy Police Chief Lee Konicki proposed the idea of conducting mobile drug take backs at the five local facilities. With the coalition’s support, Konicki contacted the Drug Enforcement Administration and asked if it was feasible. The DEA said that it had never been done before but that it would be acceptable because the town has a means of disposing the collected medications safely. (Note: they bring all of their discarded medications from the Lock Box and Drug Take Back Day to the incinerator facility in Lisbon, CT)
The mobile take backs are conducted as a joint effort of Putnam PRIDE and the Putnam Police Department. To kick off the program, Konicki wrote letters to the administrators of each of the five senior housing facilities to ask for their permission to implement the program. The coalition adopted a “Safe and Friendly Community” theme and used that to promote the program. On a designated day, representatives from the coalition and the PD visit the facilities to pick up any unused, unwanted and expired medications for safe disposal. As an added bonus, all of the residents at each facility who turned in medications were entered to win a medication lock box, purchased by the coalition.
Their initial Mobile Take Back yielded over 90 pounds of medications between the five facilities. Since then, the coalition and police have conducted two more collections, usually one month prior to the DEA’s National Take Back Day in April. This timing gives the coalition increased publicity and prepares the community for the spring take back at the local Farmers Marketplace Pavilion. After hearing from the DEA that their project was a first, the coalition applied to present at CADCA’s “Idea Fair” for the February 2016 Forum – and they were one of 10 Drug Free Communities grantees invited to present.
Romeo Blackmar, the coordinator of Putnam PRIDE, described the mobile take back program as “a chance for the Putnam Police to communicate with the senior population in our community. It is also an opportunity for the seniors to establish a connection to Putnam PRIDE.” These connections are invaluable, especially when it comes to preventing prescription drug misuse. According to the NIH, “one youth survey found that 56% of teens agreed that prescription drugs are easier to obtain than illicit drugs and that they can be easily obtained from home (Partnership Attitude Tracking Survey, 2009).” A study of teens’ use of prescription pain medication found that 34% reported getting the drugs from a family member, 17% from a friend, and 14% from a dealer or through theft (Boyd, McCabe, & Teter, 2006).