Operation Medicine Drop in York County recently reached a milestone: officials have collected 1 million doses, barely three years after the initiative began.
The initiative invites residents to drop off unused and unwanted medications, keeping them out of the hands of those who could potentially misuse them.
Officials say the 1 million doses is a “significant” figure.
Jane Alleva is director of All on Board, a coalition that promotes healthy lifestyles for young people in Rock Hill. Throughout the past several years, she said she has noticed an increase in medicine abuse.
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“One of the target areas was with youth,” she said. “They were sharing, getting ahold of, selling prescription pills. ... Everything from Hydrocodone to Oxycontin.”
The “scary trend” extended to parties, in which youths would take pills from their medicine cabinets at home, throw them into a bag at a party and have everyone choose a pill to take, without knowing the consequences. Alleva said one child with asthma took a pill that was counteractive to his condition, sending him to the hospital.
The “access point” to these medications is no longer “a scary drug dealer,” she said, but rather grandparents’ or other older relatives’ medicine cabinets.
About four years ago, Alleva said city leaders conducted a survey of about 3,200 York County students in grades 9 through 12. They asked students if they had purposely experimented with pills and misused them for getting high. Approximately 25 percent said yes.
Two years later, the results climbed to 39 percent.
Marvin Brown, leader of the York County Multijurisdictional Drug Enforcement Unit, said the unit was already working on the problem, but All on Board and Keystone Substance Abuse Services approached authorities, asking what more could be done.
“We started talking about pill drops,” Brown said. “We did a couple of community pill drops, and the drug unit sent officers to five different places in the county.”
They collected thousands of units, more than they thought possible, he said, prompting organizers to hold several more pill drops since 2009.
It also prompted them to add seven permanent drop boxes at the police departments in Rock Hill, Fort Mill, York, Clover, Tega Cay, Winthrop University and the York County Sheriff’s Office.
After the pills are collected, officers count them, reseal them and incinerate them.
Brown said they are very careful to make sure no resident’s identity is compromised.
The drug unit, Keystone and All on Board hold monthly meetings to discuss the initiatives.
Brown called it one of the most successful drug operations in the county.
“We got a million dose units on the pill-drop operation,” he said. “The majority of it is pills, but you’ve got capsules, tablets and things like that. It’s very significant that we’ve got a million dose units of these off the streets.”
Alleva said the operation wouldn’t be successful without the drug unit’s help.
“They really give up a tremendous amount of their personal time to make this possible,” she said.
Alleva and Brown were hopeful that a future survey would show a decrease in the number of teens experimenting with pills.
“I hope so; I don’t know,” Brown said. “I know that the pill problem has increased. I know that if we did not do the pill drops and take a million pills off the streets, just think about what the problem would be then.”
Students are becoming more educated about the pill problem, Alleva said.
“The more that we can send out that message ... the more they will know it’s a safe community,” she said. “This community needs to really be proud that they have made a significant effort to make this place a healthier and safer place for our children and to not put themselves in a vulnerable place.”