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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 a Light on the P2D2 Program of the Upper Peninsula

Community Spotlight: The Prescription Pill and Drug Disposal (P2D2) Program of the Upper Peninsula

Boxes Installed: August 1, 2012

Box Locations:
Marquette City Police Department, 300 West Baraga Avenue Marquette, MI (906) 228-0400
Ishpeming Police Department, 100 East Division Street, Ishpeming, MI (906)486-4416

For More Information: Sarah Derwin, (906) 315-2621 or at

In 2012, over 500 miles away from Champaign-Urbana, a local high school teacher began developing a plan with her students for the safe disposal of prescription medications.  Along the way, various individuals and groups became interested and involved in the program, including Marquette County Substance Abuse Prevention Coordinator Sarah Derwin.  Eventually, Sarah was connected with Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant's Pollution Prevention Program. From there, it was only a matter of time (and lots of hard work) that two permanent medication take-back boxes found homes at the Marquette City Police Department and the Ishpeming City Police Department

For this edition of Community Spotlight, we spoke to Ms. Derwin to find out the beginnings of the program and the tremendous amount of impact it has had on the communities it serves.

1. The Prescription Pill and Drug Disposal (P2D2) Program of the Upper Peninsula started in summer of 2012, with the permanent medication collection boxes ready and available by early August. How did this program come about for Marquette County, and why did you decide to take part?

The program actually started from a local high school environmental biology class, (Marquette Senior High School) and their dedicated teacher Karen Bacula. Mrs. Bacula had known of the P2D2 Program from a training she attended and their success in other communities and challenged her students to develop a plan to implement it locally. As coordinator of the Marquette County Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition our group became involved because of the issue of prescription drug abuse. There is currently little evidence we know about effective prevention work surrounding prescription drug abuse but our coalition knew that getting medicine out of residences has been a promising strategy to reduce abuse. Karen contacted me and I began to work with the P2D2 expert, Paul Ritter from Illinois who put us all in touch with the Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant to discuss the possibilities of obtaining receptacles for our area.

2. How have the communities responded since the program started? What are people saying about the take-back boxes and the program?

Our community responded extremely positively to the program! I think it was the perfect time to introduce it, and right from the start we had folks calling and telling us how much they appreciated having a place to dispose of medications safely and properly. I remember last year receiving a call from a man who recently lost his wife and had a large amount of controlled medication that he needed to dispose of. He thanked us and said having an easy place to go to (one of our local police departments) and the peace of mind to know it was taken care of was just one thing he didn't have to worry about in the tough time he was going through.

3. In 2014, your two locations collected over 370 pounds of expired, unwanted, or unused medicines. How do you get the word out about the program?

At the launch of the program, we got the word out by letting the media know and our local newspaper did a great story about the program. We had Paul Ritter up from Illinois to help promote and we had him on the radio and television as well! We had a student create a website ( and we promoted the site for people to visit to get more information. It spread very fast and the initial response was overwhelming!

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

We struggle with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) now discontinuing their bi-annual take-back days. We used those days to empty out our containers. We are in a rural area in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and now deal with our closest incineration site in our state is eight hours away. Luckily, we will try to partner with other areas in the Upper Peninsula and see if we can team up with their programs to get the medications taken care of. We are trying to put as little burden as possible on our police departments. They are excellent to work with and they all understand that this program is a great public service, but we don't want all the responsibility to fall on their shoulders.

5. Have there been any challenges the program has faced since it was created? How did you overcome these and what have you learned to make the program even stronger?

I would say the challenge was the initial start up (letters of approval to the DEA, talking to the police departments, explaining plans for sustainability, etc). For the program to launch we needed some buy-in from various agencies and I think having a point person to coordinate was helpful. To make the program even stronger, we tried to look at the problem from many angles. We still also struggle with where to tell folks to bring their liquid medication.

6. What have been some positive impacts from the program that you have seen since its inception? Has anything surprised you?

I think seeing the program expand was a positive impact. We had our local waste management authority write a grant to obtain three additional containers with their main angle being the negative environmental impact medications can have if thrown away or put in water systems. One surprising impact was many of the officers began talking to me about their concern on just the pure waste of medication. They could not believe how much expired medication comes in and how folks would just bring full bottles of medications and tell the officers how their doctors would just prescribe a lot of medications and because they had good insurance, the patients would fill them "just in case". The officers have urged us to bring this issue up of medical waste and over-prescribing. We have to tread lightly with our medical professionals on this issue, but I applaud our local law enforcement to seeing the bigger picture with our disposal containers! It is also surprising with our senior population, sometimes they will bring in medications from the 1960's that they were holding on to!

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

Partner and collaborate! There are many agencies that can benefit from a medicine disposal program (local public health, law enforcement, watershed groups, waste management, hospitals and hospice, etc). Appoint a lead person/agency to be responsible for the coordination. Look to regional areas to partner with. Get youth involved! They have great ideas and are so smart with technology. It's also a great project for them to see an immediate change in the community they live. Have a long-term plan for how you will deal with disposal.


Many, many thanks go out to Sarah Derwin and the Police Departments in Marquette and Ishpeming, for working so hard to provide a safe, convenient place to dispose of their community's unwanted, unused, or expired medications. It's great to hear the impact the program is having on the community, and in extension their environment. Keeping pharmaceuticals out of the hands of those they aren't intended for, and out of our environment, benefits us all.

If you have any questions about drug take-back programs, or if you're interested in getting a program started in your community, please check out our website or you can contact our Pollution Prevention Program Specialist Laura Kammin for more information.


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Posted by Erin Knowles at 10:00AM on 3/31/2015
Categories: Community Spotlight