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Rx for Action

A blog devoted to helping people find local medicine take-back programs and highlighting current research findings and pending legislation.

Community Spotlight shines on Champaign Police Department

Box Installed: May 24, 2013

Box Location: 82 E. University Avenue, Champaign, IL 61820

For more information: (217) 351-4545


Last May, three local police departments from Champaign, Urbana, and the University of Illinois came together to form the C-U Area Medicine Take-Back program.

For this edition of Community Spotlight, we spoke to Champaign Police Officer Brandon Thomas to find out more about the program in Champaign, how the program got started, and why safe medication disposal is such an important issue.

1. The C-U Area Medicine Take-Back program started in May 2013. How did this program come about for Champaign, and why did you decide to take part?

I attended a "Street Drugs" training seminar for law enforcement late in 2012. I expected a lot of rehashed information about marijuana, cocaine, heroin, etc. I was shocked to find out just how serious a problem prescription drug abuse is – especially with kids. I'm not saying this problem exists in a severe form locally, but the seminar gave me a lot to consider. I started looking at doing a "drug take-back day" so that we could get the word out. Serendipity intervened and I got in contact with Laura Kammin. It took a few months to implement the local program from there.

2. What has been the community's response? What are people saying about the take-back box and the program?

I really haven't gotten a lot of verbal feedback from the community. The box is "unattended", so there is very little interaction at that point. I can say the one complaint has been that the box fills up very quickly and some community members are asked to take their medicines either to the University of Illinois Police Department or Urbana Police Department.

This happens because the program requires extremely limited access to the box. I have a key and one other officer has a key. If neither of us is immediately available to empty the collection box, it becomes inconvenient. We are working to improve this, but I see it as a good problem to have.

3. So far in 2014, the Champaign Police Department (CPD) has collected over 600 pounds of expired, unwanted, or unused medicines. How do you get the word out about the program?

I'm honestly not sure if there has been any sort of marketing or publicity after the initial push when the program launched. I believe the program grows now through word-of-mouth and the efforts of Laura and Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant. It is my hope that this article/blog-post will also generate awareness of the program.

4. Are there any challenges or barriers you think that might prevent people from participating?

I am sure that there are some citizens that just do not feel comfortable visiting the police department for any reason. I understand that. Unfortunately, the nature of the business mandates that the collection point be at a police department. I can assure your readers that, unless the box is full, their visit to the police department to discard their medicines will be quick and painless.

5. What have been some positive impacts from the program that you have seen since its inception (any surprising)?

We have all marveled at the sheer volume of product we are collecting. I assumed that the program would be successful, but I never guessed we would collect so much stuff. It has been encouraging to see that level of participation by the public. We hope that it continues to grow and improve as time passes.

6. Do you have any words of advice to a community considering installing a permanent medicine take-back box?

I recommend that they communicate with other agencies already using the program and understand that public response will be larger than you expect. They should consider a plan for a space to store the collection for the "long term". We are fortunate at CPD. We have a room that easily stores as much as 1,000 pounds between trips to Covanta for destruction. It is secure and does not interfere with the rest of the operations at CPD.

If there are any policy-makers that do not feel this program would be beneficial, they should be directed to the National Institute of Justice's statistics on prescription drug abuse and pay special attention to those numbers regarding children. Additionally, the CDC maintains statistics for prescription painkiller overdoses as reported by hospitals.

7. Any additional information you would like to share?

So far, my work here at the school (editor note: Officer Thomas is a School Resource Officer at Central High School) doesn't seem to greatly interact with the drug program. But, I have had—in previous years—instances at the school where students were found in possession of and/or under the influence of prescription and over-the-counter medications. So, while the notion of children abusing these medications isn't hugely overt, it is certainly happening. I would be so blunt as to say it happens in every community across the nation. Programs like this one help to indirectly guide attention to that issue and provide a safe means of disposal so that parents and grandparents do not have to worry about old medicines being used and abused.

The collection box is located in the lobby of the Champaign Police Department and is accessible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Thank you, Officer Thomas, for all the hard work and effort you put in to our community, and our schools.

If you have any questions about prescription drug take-back programs, or if you're interested in getting a program started in your community, feel free to contact Laura!


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Posted by Erin Knowles at 11:25AM on 1/5/2015
Categories: Collection Programs Community Spotlight Resources