IF YOU GO
* What: Take Back Prescription Drugs Day
* When: 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday; 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday
* Where: Bradley County Sheriff's Office, 2290 Blythe Ave.; follow signs
* What is accepted: Out-of-date and unused prescription medicines
* What is not accepted: Nuclear medicine supplies and needles
Source: Bradley County Sheriff's Office, GRAAB Coalition
CLEVELAND, Tenn. — Each day next week, unused, unneeded and expired prescription drugs can be disposed of safely by taking them to the Bradley County Sheriff's Office.
In many places, Take Back Prescription Drugs Day is just that — one day.
Hamilton County's Take Back Day is Sept. 29 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Central High School, located at 5728 Highway 58, according to the Hamilton County Sheriff's Department.
In Bradley County, the sheriff department's effort is augmented by a Drug Enforcement Administration grant and the local anti-addiction group, the GRAAB Coalition, which is halfway through its own five-year federal grant.
"Part of our goal is to keep these drugs off the street," said sheriff department employee Janet Conley. "The other part is keeping them out of the environment. We know just flushing them is not an environmentally safe thing to do."
She warns anyone tempted to experiment that prescription drugs are tailored for the person meant to take them. The doctor and pharmacist know what other drugs the person is taking and can guard against drug interactions.
"For anybody else," she said, "these could be fatal."
Sheriff Jim Ruth launched the local Take Back Day in 2011. But then came tornadoes that April.
"People's lives were disrupted. And we realized we could just continue the collection all week," said Tanya Southerland, executive director of the GRAAB Coalition.
The coalition received a five-year federal Drug Free Communities grant up to $625,000 effective Oct. 1, 2010.
For the Take Back effort, prescription drugs must be turned in with their original containers. The medicine should not be loose or in unmarked bags. That's the law and a precaution so officers will know what they are handling, Missy Collins of the sheriff's department said.
The DEA will transport the drugs elsewhere for incineration. For that reason, Collins said, people do not have to peel off the labels. The containers are incinerated, too.
The GRAAB Coalition is distributing more than 200 information posters around Bradley County to advertise the event, Southerland said. The coalition also has bright yellow signs to be posted at the sheriff's department during the week to direct traffic to the right entrance.
Often, those turning in prescription drugs are elderly and have lost a spouse, or adult children who have lost a parent, Collins said.
"It can be emotional," she said. "A lot of times people will say they are finally ready to let go of these reminders of their loved one but just didn't know where to take them. I just want to cry with them sometimes."
Randall Higgins covers news in Cleveland, Tenn., for the Times Free Press. He started work with the Chattanooga Times in 1977 and joined the staff of the Chattanooga Times Free Press when the Free Press and Times merged in 1999. Randall has covered Southeast Tennessee, Northwest Georgia and Alabama. He now covers Cleveland and Bradley County and the neighboring region. Randall is a Cleveland native. He has bachelor’s degree from Tennessee Technological University. His awards ...