SOUTH ORANGE, NJ — Local officials and police officers announced the establishment of the new prescription drug drop-off box at South Orange Police Headquarters, 201 South Orange Ave. on Aug. 6. Residents now have a place to safely deposit unused prescription drugs. The box was donated to the town by the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention Team, a division of the Essex Prevention Coalition, which is dedicated to reducing alcohol and substance abuse throughout the county. Residents are encouraged to drop unused prescriptions into the box, which sits in the corner of the police station’s lobby, to prevent the drugs from being abused or being flushed down the toilet.
“This is hopefully to get them off the street, but there is an environmental impact as well,” village Trustee Walter Clarke said at the event. “People tend to flush them down the toilet, and that’s not good.”
According to Clarke and ADAPT coalition manager Joel Torres, when prescription drugs are flushed down the toilet, they can contaminate the water supply. That starts a chain reaction that then affects drinking water and the water that is put back into the environment.
Aside from the environmental impact, police Chief Kyle Kroll said the box will allow residents to dispose of drugs that are not being used in their homes any longer. One prevalent problem, according to police, is that during open house events, prospective home buyers will open medicine cabinets to see what they can find. The department often has conversations with real estate agents in the area about the risks.
“This is a long time coming,” Kroll said about the box at the ribbon cutting. “Now we have a place where children or addicts can’t get them. It’s a little bit more work for us, but it’s getting controlled substances off the street.”
When police remove surrendered drugs from the box, the drugs will be stored in the police department’s evidence locker. Officers will weigh the drugs before sending them to Covanta Essex, a waste facility in Newark, to be incinerated. Torres said, from the 17 drug surrender boxes in the county, approximately 3,500 pounds of prescription drugs were incinerated last year. The only county municipalities without the boxes are Essex Fells, Cedar Grove and West Caldwell. Maplewood will receive a box in September.
“We want to continue local partnerships,” Torres said in an interview with the News-Record at the event. “This is the beginning; you’ll also hear about local campaigns about what to dispose of. For people who are struggling with addiction, in order to support them and help them, we monitor them.”
Photos by Amanda Valentovic