BY ART BUKOWSKI
TRAVERSE CITY — Local police want you to dump your drugs.
The Grand Traverse sheriff's and Traverse City Police departments recently installed a permanent drug collection container at their headquarters on Woodmere Avenue. Area residents with expired, unused or unwanted prescription or over-the-counter drugs can toss them there from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
The departments previously participated in scheduled drug "take backs" that would run for a few days or so, but this is the first time a permanent container has been installed at that location.
The idea is to give residents an easy and secure way to get rid of drugs that increasingly are causing problems throughout northern Michigan.
"There's a real problem with prescription drug abuse," Grand Traverse Sheriff Tom Bensley said. "This is a way for unwanted or unused drugs to be disposed of very simply."
Drugs don't have to be removed from packaging prior to disposal in the container. The only medications not accepted are those in needles, aerosol cans or IV bags.
Methadone, oxycodone, fentanyl and various other prescription medications have been implicated in several fatal and non-fatal overdoses in recent years. Sometimes the drugs are obtained illicitly, but plenty of times they're simply grabbed out of a relative's medicine cabinet.
"Most prescription drugs that are issued by physicians are not used up," City Police Capt. Brian Heffner said. "It's those unused prescriptions that we want to keep off the streets."
Marybeth Novak works in drug use prevention for Catholic Human Services. The drug return container is extremely helpful, she said. Residents should dig through their cabinets and see if there's anything that needs disposal.
"We want people to be really aware of what they're keeping in their houses," she said.
Similar drug boxes also exist at sheriff's departments in Antrim, Charlevoix, Cheboygan and Emmet counties, as well as police departments in Harbor Springs, Petoskey, East Jordan, and Elk Rapids, among other locations.