Keeping the community safe: Students, team members host medication disposal event

October 10, 2019  //  FOUND IN: Michigan Medicine News,

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Last week, the Brighton Center for Specialty Care (BCSC) hosted a medication take-back event serving those living and working in Livingston, Oakland and Genesee Counties.

Almost 20 U-M pharmacy students were on hand to receive visitors’ unused or expired prescriptions and over-the-counter medications under the watchful eye of Nancy Mason, associate dean for student affairs and clinical professor for the U-M College of Pharmacy. Team members from BCSC also oversaw the operation.

“This is an extremely important event, aimed at getting unwanted or expired medications out of medicine cabinets and away from the potential danger of falling into the wrong hands,” Mason said. “That’s why we wanted to do this — and Michigan Medicine has been a great partner in helping us keep the community safe.”

An intensive task

Safely disposing of medications is not an easy task — it takes time and effort to ensure there is no harm to individuals or the environment.

The process was largely carried out by pharmacy students, who collected the medications, sorted them by category and placed them into oversized blue bins. The bins not only helped separate the items by type (non-controlled/controlled substances, sharps, liquids/ointments and aerosols), but also made the process easier for the university’s Environmental Health and Safety Hazardous Materials Management program to pick the bins up and safely dispose of the medications.

Collecting sharps — which include needles, syringes with attached needles and disposable lancets — was a relatively new aspect to these collection events. It turned out to be a huge draw to visitors, who expressed their appreciation for the service.

“Everyone who stopped by the event was thrilled that we were taking back sharps, which shows the need for more accessible ways for the community to safely dispose of all types of medications,” said Andrew Barbish, a U-M Pharm.D. candidate.

Once the medications were disposed of, students removed patient information from prescription packaging (ultimately shredding the labels), and took the empty bottles/boxes back to campus to be recycled.

The entire process was monitored by officer Billy Burton of Michigan Medicine Security and officer Marty Morales of the U-M Department of Public Safety and Security.

Community-focused

While medications were being turned in, BCSC representatives spoke with patients, families and other visitors about the clinic’s expanded services and gave away promotional items and clinic pamphlets.

“In our first year here in Brighton, we’ve made it our mission to become part of the community, helping residents lead healthier lifestyles,” said Gwendolyn Young, regulatory and compliance coordinator at BCSC. “That’s why we decided to bring this type of event to the area.”

Indeed, it was the first such event in Brighton — but not the first run by teams at U-M. In fact, such disposal events have been held for years in nearly 27 different Michigan cities — including one on the same day last week on the U-M campus in Ann Arbor.

“If we’re getting medication out of the wrong hands, we’re helping the community and limiting the potential for harm,” Young said. “These events are proven to work and we will continue carrying them out well into the future.”

Overall, the disposal event was a rousing success, keeping meds from falling into the wrong hands, contaminating lakes and streams or ending up in drinking water.

“We’re thrilled with this year’s event,” Barbish said. “And it proves that the appetite is there for us to help individuals protect themselves and the environment around them.”

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