Have unused drugs and medication around the house?
Drop it in the Big Red Barrel at the Saline Police Department and you can be assured it won’t end up in the hands of a loved one or flushed into the Saline River.
The community celebrated the unveiling of the Big Red Barrel at a ceremony Saturday morning next to the dispatch desk at the Saline Police Department, which is where the barrel will be located.
“Today we’re celebrating a partnership that resulted in providing a way for the community to dispose of unwanted and unneeded medication,” said David Rhoads, a Saline City Councillor and member of Saline’s Parents and Community Together.
The city, the Saline Police Department, PACT, Saline Area Schools, the Saline Environmental Commission and Washtenaw Community Health Organization are just some of the organizations that partnered to bring the first Big Red Barrel to Saline. It’s patterned off a Livingston County program which now features four barrels and which has collected more than 360 pounds of medication since its inception in April of 2011.
“It was more successful than we ever imagined it would be,” said Kaitlin Fink, of the Livingston County Community Alliance. “We got a big buy in from important groups in the community. One police chief saw the red barrel at a department and decided he wanted one, too. And it caught on.”
The program drew attention from all over the country, Fink said.
Residents can drop off any unwanted drugs and medication at the department during regular business hours, according to Sgt. Jay Basso, who coordinated the project on the Saline Police Department’s end. Basso said that twice a year, drugs will be collected and incinerated.
One of the goals is to prevent unhealthy drug use.
“Prescription drug abuse is a growing problem. One way to prevent abuse is to make sure drugs aren’t lying around the house,” said Therese Doud, substance abuse prevention coordinator at Washtenaw County Public Health.
Another issue is the environment. According to the EPA, Studies have shown that pharmaceuticals are present in the nation's bodies of water. Further research suggests that certain drugs may cause ecological harm.
“The ultimate winner in all this is all the people in Michigan and our environment,” said Mary Lirones, Saline’s representative on the River Raisin Watershed Council. “Pills were being flushed down toilets for many years. Ultimately, we're going to have a much cleaner environment and river and we're appreciative of that.”
State Rep. Mark Ouimet called drug disposal is an important issue throughout the country.
“These are drugs that need to be disposed of in the proper manner,” Ouimet said. “I went to commend all for stepping forward to get connected through the community, so that community by community in this state, we can deal with this dramatic issue.”
Mayor Gretchen Driskell applauded the partnership that brought about the project and urged people to spread the word.
“This community is amazing and we're always doing great projects together and we're always coming up with new ideas to improve our community,” Driskell said. “It's really important that people share this message because the only way this really happens and changes our world is by people talking about it.”
The barrel is located next to the police dispatch desk where it is under 24-hour-a-day surveillance by police and a video camera.
The Big Red Barrel was constructed by students at Saline High School.