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State welcomes help in fight vs. opioid abuse: Tom Mehaffie

Posted 8/28/19

The commonwealth of Pennsylvania is in an ongoing battle to address the opioid crisis that has taken thousands of lives in our state.

While causes of the opioid crisis are complex, one of the ways …

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State welcomes help in fight vs. opioid abuse: Tom Mehaffie

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The commonwealth of Pennsylvania is in an ongoing battle to address the opioid crisis that has taken thousands of lives in our state.

While causes of the opioid crisis are complex, one of the ways in which people become addicted is by using a prescription meant for someone else in the household. The bottom line is that leftover prescription medications present an opportunity for abuse. Thankfully, there are now drug collection boxes throughout our community, including in our local police departments, but we must increase public awareness of these boxes and use them ourselves. It is just one way to stop this problem before it even starts.

Recently, CVS Health installed a drug disposal box in its Middletown store. I attended an event marking the occasion along with Dauphin County Commissioners Jeff Haste, Mike Pries and George Hartwick. CVS has installed similar boxes in 105 other Pennsylvania CVS locations, which means that there are now many safe and convenient places to discard unused prescription medications.

Aspects of the opioid crisis that the state must address are numerous. As legislators, we must determine how to allocate funds for local and state response, identify which treatment options demonstrate the best success rates so that those programs can be funded and replicated, and ensure that families are supported when necessary. The stress this crisis is putting on our state resources is hard to overstate; it is impacting our hospitals, public health programs, private treatment facilities, the child welfare system and our prisons.

To me, one of the main takeaways of the event held in Middletown is the important role that the private sector can play in helping to address a societal problem. Having a private-sector partner that proactively identifies a way in which they can solve a problem — like making it easier for citizens to safely remove unneeded medications from their homes — is invaluable. It frees up state time and resources to do what we can.

Making unused drug disposal easier is a singularly important component of making headway in solving the opioid crisis. The state’s annual participation in the “National Drug Take Back Day,” a program run by the Drug Enforcement Agency, is a well-publicized reminder of this problem and remains important. However, the more convenient and accessible we can make secure drug collection boxes, the better.

The ideal situation would be for patients to dispose of unneeded medications as soon as they stop taking them — and the easier we make it for them, the more likely this is to occur. Secure boxes also help out law enforcement by reducing the supply of unused medications that could be sold illegally on the street.

There is a secondary benefit to boxes that enable citizens to easily dispose of prescriptions no longer being used — an environmental benefit. Throwing medications away in the trash, or worse yet, flushing them down the toilet, allows trace amounts of medications to enter our soil and water.

There is no efficient way to remove trace amounts of drugs from the water supply, and this can pose long-term dangers to the health of humans and wildlife.

The opioid crisis didn’t happen overnight, and we won’t solve it overnight. But with help from the entire community, we can begin to get to some of the root causes that enable addiction. This is a problem no one can solve alone, and I am hopeful that we’ll see more leadership like this from the private sector.

State Rep. Tom Mehaffie, R-Lower Swatara Township, represents the 106th House District. Reach him at 717-534-1323 or tmehaffie@pahousegop.com.