Connecticut residents dump 8,000 pounds of drugs, vaping material on record takeback day

People in Connecticut and across the nation safely discarded a record amount of unused prescription drugs and vaping materials as part of the federal Drug Enforcement Agency’s recent Drug Take Back Day.

The total cleared from medicine cabinets nationwide was 985,392 pounds, or about 493 tons of medication dropped off at 4,587 collection sites, the agency recently announced.

In the six New England states, 115,944 pounds of expired, unused prescription drugs, electronic vaping devices and cartridges were collected at 586 sites. That’s more than four times the amount collected in the region (25,810 pounds) during the first Drug Take Back Day in September 2010.

In Connecticut, the total weight collected last week was about 8,000 pounds, compared with about 5,800 pounds three years ago. In total, about 13.6 million pounds or prescription drugs nationwide, including 122,245 pounds in Connecticut, has been collected since the program started, according to the DEA.

Collections at the semi-annual event (in April and October) are anonymous, and the drugs are incinerated at a waste-to-energy plant, Special Agent Timothy Desmond of the agency’s New England Division office said Monday.

Drugs dumped in the trash could be retrieved by people who would take them or sell them or by children, and some drugs flushed down the toilet can contaminate the water supply, the DEA says.

“The bottom line is that removing Rx medicines from the nation’s homes, where they could be stolen and abused by family members and visitors, including children and teens, is very important,” Desmond said.

Rates of prescription drug abuse in the U.S. are alarmingly high, according to the DEA, as are the number of accidental poisonings and overdoses due to these drugs.

The recent Drug Take Back Day was the second event in which the DEA accepted vaping devices and cartridges at any of its drop off locations as long as the lithium batteries were removed, Desmond said.

“DEA is doing all it can to help dispose safely of vaping devices and liquids to get these products off our streets and out of the hands of children,” he said.

In East Hartford, citizens turned in over 100 pounds of unwanted and unused prescription drugs, police spokesman Lt. Josh Litwin said. East Hartford, like some other police departments, also has a year-round drop box for unwanted drugs in the lobby of the public safety complex at 31 School St. Collections are limited to prescription medications, pills, capsules and caplets. Prohibited items include intravenous bags, sharps (anything with a needle or lance), Epi-pens, patches, gels, medications in tubes and liquids.

“The Pharmaceutical Collection Program reduces the risk of prescription drug diversion and abuse, sickness and hospitalizations attributable to inappropriate or outdated medication consumption and environmental damage including groundwater contamination and non-point watercourse pollution,” Mayor Marcia Leclerc said. “Medication disposal is a major public health and safety concern.”

Jesse Leavenworth can be reached at [email protected]

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©2020 The Hartford Courant (Hartford, Conn.)

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Connecticut Department of Public Health receives five-year, $3.5M grant from CDC to fund suicide prevention efforts

The Connecticut Department of Public Health has received a five-year, $3.5 million grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to enhance statewide suicide prevention efforts, Gov. Ned Lamont announced at St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center in Hartford Thursday morning.

The grant, which runs through Aug. 31, 2025, will be a joint effort between DPH, the Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, the Connecticut Department of Children and Families and UConn Health. The prevention efforts will concentrate on populations that are disproportionately impacted by suicide or attempted suicide, including middle-aged adults, particularly men with mental illness or substance use disorder, and adolescents and young adults (ages 10-24).

State officials at the news conference spoke about the intense mental health toll the COVID-19 pandemic has taken on Connecticut residents.

With COVID-19 cases increasing and the winter approaching, “I can feel the stress building again,” Lamont said. He described a “witches’ brew” of health concerns, economic distress and social isolation.

“I hear a lot of, ‘I thought we had a light at the end of the COVID tunnel and it looks like it’s receding,’ ” Lamont said. “I hear the economic anxiety every day.”

Dr. Steven Wolf, chairman of emergency medicine at St. Francis, said that social isolation has exacerbated local residents’ experiences of mental illness and substance use disorder.

Seven people under the age of 18 have died by suicide in Connecticut this year, including four since October, according to Miriam Delphin-Rittmon, the commissioner of the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services.

Connecticut averages about eight suicides of children under the age of 18 annually, Vannessa Dorantes, the commissioner of the state’s Department of Children and Families, said. She emphasized that the state must “work together to get that number to zero.”

On average, 403 Connecticut residents died annually of suicide between 2015 and 2019, a 14% increase from the annual average of 351 residents between 2010 and 2014, according to state officials.

“Though Connecticut has one of the lowest suicide rates in the United States, we know even one death is too much,” Delphin-Rittmon said.

Karen Jarmoc, president & CEO of the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence, said that calls to CTSafeConnect, the organization’s domestic violence hotline, rose by 30% due to the COVID-19 pandemic and domestic violence advocacy groups across the state faced increased demand for their services.

“When the pandemic hit in March in our state, understandably there were shut-in orders to keep people safe from a public health standpoint,” Jarmoc said. “From our perspective, it created a precarious situation where victims of domestic violence were shut in with their abusive partner.”

Early in the pandemic, 18 sites across the state that house victims of domestic violence had to send some people to hotels in order to reduce capacity and the risk of a COVID-19 outbreak, she said. That resulted in more than $390,000 in unexpected fees to house about 200 adults and 200 children in hotels, from March through

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