Representatives from the state Attorney General’s Office and the New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety joined with Brookdale police officers and college officials on March 7 to promote Project Medicine Drop on the Lincroft campus.
The statewide initiative, spearheaded by the Attorney General’s Office and the N.J. Division of Consumer of Affairs, encourages residents to turn in expired or unused medication at secure drop-off locations across the state. The effort began in 2011 as part of a multi-pronged approach to combat New Jersey’s opioid crisis, which has had a particularly devastating impact on Monmouth, Ocean and nearby counties.
Statewide, opiate overdoses claimed nearly 1,600 lives in 2015, while thousands more remain trapped in the cycle of addiction.
Part of the solution, according to the N.J. Attorney General’s chief of staff Nancy Fitterer, is to keep dangerous and potentially addictive drugs out of the hands of children, teens and young adults.
“So many people have all these unwanted medications in their medicine chests, and they don’t even think about it,” said Fitterer, who visited campus to speak with Brookdale students, police and officials prior to the March 7 event. “It could be pain medication from a past injury or even just antibiotics. Children will go into medicine cabinets and start taking pills without any understanding of what they might do.”
In other instances, Fitterer said, drug seekers may take medication from elderly or deceased family members, break into homes, or even visit local open houses in search of unsupervised pills. While state officials are attacking the opiate crisis on multiple fronts, reducing the number of available pills is a powerful tool, she said.
“Addiction, unfortunately, does not discriminate. But it definitely has an extraordinary impact on our young people,” she said. “It we can get unused medication out of the house, it’s a step in the right direction.”
State officials have partnered with local police departments to install permanent “Medicine Drop” boxes at town centers and police headquarters, allowing residents to safely dispose of medication with no questions asked. The initiative began with three police departments in 2011; today there 215 medicine drops at locations across the state, including more than a dozen in Monmouth County.
At Brookdale, a medicine drop is located at the Brookdale Police Department on the Lincroft campus. It is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and open to students, employees and all members of the community, said Brookdale Police Capt. Robert Kimler.
“With any kind of unused, excess prescription medications, they end up in one of three places: they are diverted to hands that shouldn’t have them, they end up in the water supply or they end up in the landfill,” said Kimler, during the event.
“By taking them and properly destroying them, we can avoid those outcomes and any negative impacts that they cause. We’re here today to get the word out, so that people know that we have a place on campus to drop off your unused medications.”
The Project Medicine Drop event featured a temporary, mobile drop-box for community members to drop off medications in the Student Life Center, along with an information table and a variety of free baked goods. The event was co-hosted by members of Brookdale’s Criminal Justice Club, who said the initiative was a valuable one for local college students.
“It definitely makes a difference to get the word out to students while they are still young,” said Criminal Justice Club president and second-year criminal justice major Matt Golembieski. “When people are young their brains are still developing, and that’s when they are most susceptible to dangerous influences and habits. It’s a good initiative to get the word out there and reach people who are even thinking about using prescription drugs.”
The event was also attended by Douglas Collier, law enforcement liaison for the NJ Department of Law and Public Safety’s Criminal Justice Division; Patricia Sensi, associate vice president of human resources and organizational safety at Brookdale; criminal justice professor Anthony “Guy” Pellicane; and Brookdale police sergeants Anthony Ceglie and Risheem Whitten.
Check out more photos from the Project Medicine Drop event here.