‘Rx turn-in’ sweeps $102,000 worth of drugs from the streets

You’ll see why both crime prevention coordinators and cops are jacked up about their first “Prescription Drug Turn-in”, held at Eastport Plaza …

Officials say that thrill-seeking teens won’t be able to sneak pills like these – Codeine, Oxycontin, Vicodin, Oxycodone, Lorazepam, Morphine, and Fentanyl – from their unsuspecting parents’ medicine cabinets – thanks to East Portland’s new prescription drug turn-in program.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
When they rolled the Portland Police Bureau’s Mobile Precinct unit to Eastport Plaza, and set up for their first “Prescription Drug Turn-in” event on August 29, Jenni Bernheisel, an East Portland Crime Prevention Coordinator with the City of Portland’s Office of Neighborhood Involvement, said they’d wondered if anyone would come.

“It’s not an original concept with me,” Bernheisel told us. “I was inspired by Police Chief Gugle in Winston, Oregon – they’ve been holding drug turn-in events since last July.”

There’s also a rise in drug abuse – prescription drug abuse – among local teenagers, Bernheisel explained. “Kids these days are getting prescription drugs out of medicine cabinets in their homes, their grandparents’ homes, and friends’ homes. That’s why we want to get these unused medicines out of homes. If we can save one single life by having this event – by having someone clean up their medicine cabinet, so those drugs are not available – that is our goal.”

Crime Prevention Coordinator Jenni Bernheisel, Portland Police Bureau East Precinct Sgt. John Scruggs, and Angela Wagnon – also a Crime Prevention Coordinator – stand ready to collect prescription drugs from citizens who come to the event.

Cop astonished by drugs turned in
Even though they’d only been taking in unused medications for an hour, Portland Police Bureau East Precinct Sgt. John Scruggs said he was astonished by both the amount and the kinds of prescription drugs turned in.

“The threat to our young people posed by prescription drugs is very real,” assured Scruggs. “I talked a teenager couple of days ago; the first drug he’d used was a prescription painkiller out of his parents’ cabinet. It’s good to get these drugs off the street.”

Noting that they’d already filled a large evidence bag with pills and capsules, Scruggs said. “We’re taking in Codeine, Oxycontin, Vicodin, Oxycodone, Lorazepam, Morphine, and Fentanyl. We’re happy to get these medications out of the system. We recently had a death in Gresham from Oxycontin.”

East Precinct project coordinator Arlene Martinez blacks out names and other personal information on prescription bottles that were turned in.

Citizens like ‘drive-through drop-off’
Because no one in Portland has operated a pill turn-in program in the past, Bernheisel commented that they’d wondered how citizens would react, when they came to the event. But, “People seem to really like to be able to drive up, hand off their medications to, see that police officers here – and drive off on their way.”

After tallying up their takings, Bernheisel said this first prescription drug turn-in event netted over 40 pounds of medications to be incinerated – dropped off by 120 citizens. “This includes about 4,100 tablets or capsules of the most-abused medications currently used on the street. The estimated street value of the drugs turned in was well over $102,000!”

Planning future events
We asked Bernheisel what recourse people have, if they missed this event. “The safest option is to keep the medications put away and locked, and until we have another drug turn-in. We hope to have these on a regular basis, perhaps quarterly, offered around the city, so they’d be available to as many people as possible.”

Crime Prevention Coordinators ask, “What are you doing with your medicines to make sure they don’t end up in the wrong hands?

© 2009 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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