Safe Medication Disposal
Partnership between Healing Cayuga, DisposeRx, and Cayuga County Office for the Aging brings safe medication disposal options to Meals on Wheels participants
Encouraging Medication Disposal in Cayuga County
By Monika Salvage and the DisposeRx Team
Older adults take more prescribed and over-the-counter medications than any other age group, often leaving unused and expired pills stored in medicine cabinets, pill boxes, and bathroom cabinets. Unused medications can pose risks to children, pets, young adults, and even seniors who may accidentally take the wrong prescription.
Based on local overdose surveillance data, we recognized the need to reach older adults with education and an at-home option to easily dispose of unused medications and decided to contact the Cayuga County Office for the Aging about a collaboration.
Through this partnership of our two county departments, we reach homebound Meals on Wheels program clients to educate them on the importance of safe disposal of unused and/or expired medications. To date, 500 DisposeRx at-home medication disposal packets and educational materials have been donated by the company and provided to seniors to encourage prompt disposal of unneeded medications.
Through this program, we were able to reach homebound seniors, many of whom live in rural areas without access to disposal locations. We’ve directly provided them with a product that they can use at home, which is much more effective than if we had just offered information or only created awareness.
Healing Cayuga was part of the first wave of the HEALing Communities Study – a program of the National Institutes of Health – to test the integration of prevention, overdose treatment, and medication-based treatment in select communities hard hit by the opioid crisis. The findings will establish best practices for prevention and treatment strategies that can be replicated by communities nationwide.
Starting in 2020 and running for more than three years, the HEALing Communities Study coordinated activities that include timely access to medication treatment, Narcan training and distribution, and safe drug disposal. The efforts resulted in a 22% reduction in overdose deaths in 2021 and 98 witnesses administering the first dose of Narcan during an overdose emergency, thereby potentially saving 94 lives. These outcomes were made possible through extensive collaboration among the HEALing Communities staff and partner agencies, strategic investment in expanded peer support to fill existing gaps, countywide data surveillance, and public information campaigns.
Cayuga County is now in the post-grant transition for the HEALing Communities Study; however, the work will not stop! Agencies have pledged to continue many of the initiatives, as well as take the lessons learned and the framework that was created from the opioid initiative to address other substances, such as fentanyl and stimulants.
Caption: A Meals on Wheels volunteer included an important message about medication disposal and a DisposeRx packet to a recipient with their daily meal delivery.
Caption: Healing Cayuga Project Director, Monika Salvage, delivered 500 medication disposal pouches to Cayuga County Office for the Aging Director, Brenda Wiemann, and Nutrition Program Coordinator, Jenna Adams.
Medication disposal boxes available throughout Cayuga County
National study brings light to an alarming trend in Cayuga County
For the past two years, Cayuga County has been taking part in a national study, tracking opioid overdoses in real time. Recently, they’ve noticed an alarming trend in young teens and children. Within the last year, Cayuga County has seen a major increase in overdoses in teens and young children. From 2019 to now, those numbers have tripled.
Monika Salvage, the director of the program, said kids are grabbing anything they can find at home and intentionally harming themselves. It may not be illicit drugs, but it ranges from over-the-counter drugs like Advil to prescription pills. Salvage said they’re seeing this in kids as young as 11.
On top of that, the number of completed suicides throughout the county has doubled since the start of the pandemic.
Salvage said parents should make sure all of their drugs, whether over the counter or prescribed, need to be locked away out of sight from their children. It never hurts to have Narcan nasal spray on hand, because you never know when opioids are involved.