By Jessica Bruha
The Norman Transcript
NOBLE — The Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics visited Noble and Lexington police departments Thursday, providing them with permanent drop boxes for the safe disposal of prescription drugs.
OBN Director Darrell Weaver said the program began a few years ago when they were brainstorming how to implement a standardized approach across the state.
“We decided we would take these funky-looking mailbox things and put them in police departments and sheriff’s departments around the state,” Weaver said.
The drop boxes are available for those who want to safely dispose of prescription drugs with no questions asked and no investigations, he said. The boxes provided Thursday were the 146th and 147th in Oklahoma.
In the two years the program has been active, OBN has collected 21.6 tons of prescription drugs.
“We don’t have the manpower to count every pill, but we have a way to measure it by weight,” Weaver said. “How many lives were saved? We don’t know, but I can almost guarantee that somebody’s been saved.”
The agency also is conscious about the disposal of the prescription drugs collected. Covanta Energy in Tulsa is a facility that takes household trash and converts it into green energy. When Weaver heard about it, he wanted to see it.
“We went up there in this dirty, sweaty place inside a dump, and it’s July and it’s about 125 degrees in there. Of course, I’m in my suit sweating, my bald head’s sweating up a storm. But guess what? It was worth every second because when we went in there, those guys said, ‘This is what we’ll do. We’ll take these back and we’ll convert it to green energy, and it won’t cost you a dime,” Weaver said.
Two years later, it still hasn’t cost them a dime, he said.
“It’s worth every minute if we can save some kid’s life,” Weaver said. “As a director and as an agency, we have this heartbeat that if we save one life, it’s worth it.”
Weaver also said when you look at drug overdose deaths, statistics show 80 percent of those are caused by prescription drugs.
However, for the first time in the history of the state, there was a small decrease two years ago in prescription drug overdose deaths.
“It was very slight, but that’s the trend we want to see. We want it to go the other way,” he said.
The program doesn’t put a burden on the law enforcement agencies housing drop boxes. Weaver said it is a turnkey operation. The program is a national model, so the agency will only place the drop boxes in secure areas.
“I’d just like to say I’m very excited,” Noble City Manager Bob Wade said. “We’ve been, for over a year, aware we needed to take another step on prescription drugs.”
Over the past few years, the city has been working on tackling problems with alcohol and illegal drugs in the community, as well as focusing on a healthier community overall, he said.
“We want our people to know we’re doing everything we can do to keep their children, their families and them safe,” Wade said.
Weaver said having that vision of a healthier community and pursuing that goal is a good thing.
“We can put a Band-Aid over the problem or we can say, ‘You know what? What about the social ills of society? What about our health problems? What about those types of things?’ And that’s how you really facilitate long-term change,” Weaver said.
Noble Chief of Police Keith Springstead said they are always looking for ways they can better serve residents.
“People would come in and we’d say, ‘You have to go to Norman.’ Well, you know what? The day is here when we can do it right here and we can do it local. That’s what makes me so proud, and we’re able to offer service to our community through the help of everyone else, and it’s really going to be a good thing,” Springstead said.
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