Three local agencies have partnered to expand safe medication disposal in Yakima Valley and will celebrate the installation of a new drug disposal kiosk in Yakima on Friday morning.  

Community Health of Central Washington, Citizens for Safe Yakima Valley Communities (also known as Safe Yakima Valley), and Yakima Health District representatives will gather at 11 a.m. Friday for a ribbon-cutting ceremony unleashing the new kiosk to the public.

The kiosk, which is located in the Central Washington Family Medicine clinic at 1806 West Lincoln Avenue, will allow residents to drop off their unwanted or excess medications -- including opioids, prescription medications, and over-the-counter medicines -- in a secure location any time from 8:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., Monday through Friday.

CHCW Pharmacy Director Britni Green said the Federal Drug Administration recommends the prompt disposal of all unused, unwanted, or expired medications in order to prevent accidental overdoses, to reduce medication misuse, and to protect the medications from ending up in the environment.

“Medicines play an important role in treating certain medical conditions and diseases, but when taken by individuals without these conditions, they may cause irreversible harm,” Green said.

A joint effort of the three agencies fully funded the kiosk. There is no cost for dropping off the medications for all area residents, and residents do not have to be patients at the clinic.

Verlynn Best, president of the Yakima Chamber of Commerce, said her organization fully supports the addition of the drug deposit kiosk.

“It’s a safe way to get prescription drugs off the streets and away from our children, and it is also protecting the environment,” Best said. “This truly helps minimize prescription drug abuse.”

The importance of safe drug disposal

Ester Huey, the interim director of Safe Yakima Valley, said that prescription drug abuse is a growing problem in both Yakima and across the nation.

Huey said her organization is placing an emphasis on the safe disposal of all unused or expired opioid medications -- which include prescribed painkillers such as Vicodin, OxyContin and Percocet -- in response to the national crisis of abused prescription medications.

Misuse of over-the-counter drugs also is a concern, Huey added.

One of the major problems of keeping excess medications in unsecured locations is accidental exposure for very young children, Green said.

Pills commonly resemble candy. Liquid medications are flavored to taste good. Patches work like stickers. And kids are curious, Green said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that nationally, 600,000 emergency department visits and 450,000 calls to poison control centers involve accidental pediatric poisonings and children under the age of 6 years. In over two-thirds of those emergency room visits, the patients are less than two years old -- with 20 percent of cases involving hospitalization.

Huey said her organization collects data on an ongoing basis about the number of children impacted by prescription drug misuse in the Yakima Valley.  

“It is too early to provide definitive accurate statistics at this time,” she said. “But of particular concern is the growing number of grandparents who are raising grandchildren and may be innocently leaving prescription drugs laying around where the young people in their care may have access to them.”

Green referenced a 2006 study by McFee and Caraccio that found accessed medications in 45 percent of reported incidences were kept in child-resistant containers.

But both women noted that misuse of medications can happen at any age.

“The epidemic seems to be crossing all boundaries in our communities,” Huey said. “We must all work together in our target groups to combat the issue and decrease the subsequent harm and community devastation it causes.”

Drug disposal around the Valley

The MedSafe disposal kiosk in Yakima combines a stainless steel collection receptacle with a removable prepaid shipback inner liner. Once full, the liner can be removed, sealed, and shipped by authorized personnel to a final destination at an approved incinerator.

The three agencies selected the location for the kiosk at Central Washington Family Medicine Clinic because of its on-site pharmacy and central location in Yakima, which is “easily accessible to the community,” Green noted.

No drug disposal kiosk has yet been established in Cowiche, Highland, Tieton or Naches.  But CHCW has started a take-back medication recovery pilot program through its Highland and Naches clinics using special envelopes that will allow residents to mail in their unused or expired medications.

The MedSafe envelopes are fully compliant with the Drug Enforcement Administration’s  2010-issued Secure and Responsible Drug Disposal Act. MedSafe envelopes provide mail-back services throughout the nation and the envelopes are “very discrete,” Green said.

While prescription drugs have been disappearing from mailboxes around the nation, Green said she is not overly concerned about the possibility of the drugs in the MedSafe envelopes being stolen.

“I don’t foresee a high risk of diversion, since there will be limited access points within the destruction to the FDA-approved destruction facility,” Green said.

Once sealed and mailed, the envelopes are given directly to U.S. Postal Service workers who then deliver them to an approved medication incinerator, where licensed law enforcement officials oversee their proper destruction.

RESOURCES

To drop off extra medication, visit the Central Washington Family Medicine Clinic lobby, located at 1806 W. Lincoln Avenue in Yakima, between the hours of 8:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Monday through Friday