Meals on Wheels collects unused, expired pills from participants

Published 12:00 am Sunday, October 20, 2019

SALISBURY — William Reissner says he wasn’t sure what to do with leftover prescription pills from 2017.

The half-full storage bag full of white and yellow pills he assembled Saturday was the result of refilled prescriptions that had been rendered unnecessary.

“I had just gotten them refilled (in 2017) and I went into the hospital and they changed my medication. So, I had a 90-day supply of both types of bills,” Reissner said. “I had taken them to Walgreens and they didn’t want them.”

On Saturday, the pills found their new home — a dropbox in the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office — after a take back event coordinated by the group Youth Substance Use Prevention Rowan and Meals on Wheels, which delivers meals and provides an informal safety check to homebound seniors and disabled people who live in Rowan County. It was the first such event, and a second take back is planned Nov. 2 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Without the take back, Reissner said he would have kept the pills in his house until he could find a destination. That, said event organizers, is exactly what they hope to prevent.

The take back specifically aimed to collected unused and expired medication from meal recipients to prevent prescription and over-the-counter medications from ending up in the hands of young people, said YSUP Rowan Project Director Lauren Alexander-Persse. Elderly people often have grandchildren, and those grandchildren may find the pills and choose to sell or use them, said Meals on Wheels Executive Director Cindy Fink and and Gail Sce, of YSUP Rowan.

The Drug Enforcement Agency says 9.9 million Americans misused prescription drugs in 2018 and that abused prescription drugs often were obtained from the medicine cabinets of family and friends.

While it’s bad enough if leftover medicine is sitting around, it’s worse if those pills are expired, said Claire Allen, of YSUP Rowan.

“So, the fact that we’re helping get that out of the house and destroyed is important for safety,” Claire Allen said.

On Saturday, there were two participants in the drug take back — Reissner and Kathryn Kemmerer, who said she had leftover pills after her mother died.

Fink said four more seniors have signed up to to participate in the second take back event on Nov. 2. Meals on Wheels participants, Fink said, can still RSVP by returning a card about the take back that was previously provided with meals. The card can be handed to a volunteer delivering meals or mailed to the organization, Fink said.

Alternatively, Meals on Wheels participants can call the organization’s office at 704-633-0352.

Others who want to dispose of prescription medication can do so at a number of locations across the county, including the Sheriff’s Office in Salisbury, the Rowan County Health Department or the Salisbury Police Department.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to correctly state Claire Allen’s name.