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‘Operation Medicine Cabinet’ deemed a success

By Staff | Nov 15, 2010

More than 57,000 pills, along with other items, were turned over to local authorities Saturday during Operation Medicine Cabinet.
The Lee County Sheriff’s Office and Lee County Coalition for a Drug-Free Southwest Florida partnered together to collect unused, unwanted and expired medications at three locations. Under an anonymous, no-questions-asked policy, people dropped off pills, to liquid and cream medications, to syringes, patches and inhalers.
“We’ll take whatever they bring,” Sgt. Karl Albenga, of the LCSO Narcotics Unit, said.
The drop-off locations were the Wal-Mart on Del Prado Boulevard South, a Winn-Dixie in Lehigh Acres and the Coconut Point Mall in Estero. Albenga reported that there were 57,174 pills collected, 50 liquids and 107 creams. There were 500 patches dropped off, 598 inhalers and 44 powders, as well as 70 syringes collected.
The goal of the operation was two-fold. It first made sure the medications were properly disposed of, rather than tossed in the trash or flushed down a drain into the water supply.
Secondly, it kept the medications from falling into children’s hands and off of the streets.
Everything collected was brought to the LCSO Evidence Facility for incineration.
Deborah Comella, executive director of the coalition, was present at the Cape drop-off.
“Whatever is it, we’ve gotten it,” she said. “It’s been very steady the whole time.”
According to Comella and Albenga, who also was at the Wal-Mart, they accepted fentanyl patches used in cancer treatment, Oxycontin, and opiates and narcotics from people whose spouses had been in hospice treatment. One man dropped off a bag of unused morphine syringes that his wife had needed prior to passing away.
In some instances, people handed over prescriptions well past their expiration date.
“Things that they’ve kept around forever,” Comella said.
Mike Morrison dropped by the Wal-Mart to dispose of a plastic bag of medications. Morrison and his wife were in town to clean out his mother-in-law’s home because she had passed away. The operation Saturday gave them a chance to get rid of some stuff.
“She had lots of stuff from pharmacies,” he said.
Morrison called the operation another option for disposing of old medications.
“I think they need to do this,” he said. “Give people an alternative.”
A lot of people Saturday stated that they did not know how to get rid of medications.
“I think they’re happy about the fact that we are here,” Albenga said.
Officials are looking into holding the operation more than once a year. In February, the LCSO hosted an Operation Prescription Clean-out with the city of Bonita Springs. The department collected nearly 50,000 prescription and over-the-counter pills and liquids.
“Obviously, people are holding onto them way too long,” Albenga said.
Medications can be dropped off anonymously at any time at the LCSO Evidence Facility, at 10070 Intercom Drive, Fort Myers. For information, contact 477-1000.