Dowagiac, Edwardsburg to receive prescription drug take back boxes

Published 8:00 am Thursday, December 10, 2015

(Leader photo/TED YOAKUM)

(Leader photo/TED YOAKUM)

Residents living in Dowagiac and Edwardsburg will soon have an easy way to dispose of unused or expired medication within their medicine cabinets — and to ensure they never fall into the wrong hands.

The C.A.S.S Community Coalition, along with local law enforcement officials and members of Woodlands Behavioral Health, announced the launch of four new Red Box Drug Collection Sites in the county during a press conference Wednesday at the Woodlands facility in Cassopolis. The new prescription drug drop boxes will be located at the following locations:

• Dowagiac Police Department, 241 S. Front St., Dowagiac, from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

• Family Fare, 56151 M-51, Dowagiac, 6 a.m. to midnight, seven days a week.

• Pokagon Tribal Health Center, 58620 Sink Road, Dowagiac, 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, and 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursdays.

• Edwardsburg Police Department, 26296 E. Main, Edwardsburg, 8:30 a.m. to 2:20 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Fridays.

The new boxes, which should be in place by Dec. 18, will join the existing drug collection box located inside the Cass County Sheriff’s Office in Cassopolis. Similar to how that box functions, any medication collected at these four new spots will be gathered by local police officers and sent to a disposal facility, where they will be safely destroyed.

C.A.S.S. Coordinator E.J. McAndrew helped facilitate the purchase of the four red mailbox shaped boxes using a grant provided to the county by Southwest Michigan Behavioral Health. Buying them in bulk with several other communities, the collation was able to acquire the structures for $490 a box, a little more than half of what they normally cost.

“These things are not cheap, they’re fairly expensive,” said Director of Public Safety Steve Grinnewald. “There’s not a lot of ways for these departments to get them. [EJ] helped make that happen. She deserves a lot of credit for that.”

Grinnewald was joined by fellow police chiefs Tim Kozal, of the Edwardsburg Police Department, and William Lux, with the Pokagon Band Tribal Police Department, for the announcement that morning. All three leaders expressed their gratitude to have the disposal boxes within their communities, which are facing a rising trend in prescription drug abuse.

“I can’t count the number of people who come into our department daily and want to turn in different medications,” Grinnewald said. “We have to point them to another direction, and most of them don’t want to go that far. So they don’t.”

The C.A.S.S Community Coalition and police departments have worked for the past several years to rid Cass County homes of unused pills, organizing several drug take back events, which have managed to rid more than 432 pounds of medication from area homes.

The problem continues to grow here in the county, though. According to Grinnewald, Dowagiac police have dealt with nearly two dozen different cases over the last several months involving people possessing medication they didn’t have prescriptions for.

Besides the inherit risks of abusing medication, such as overdosing, people who use opiate-based painkillers such as hydrocodone or oxycodone may end up turning to the cheaper, and much deadlier, heroin to satisfy their addiction.

“Probably biggest problem we run into is a lot of general public look at it as ‘it’s not drugs, it’s just prescriptions,’” Grinnewald said. “But yeah, they are. And they’re killing people.”