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Drug drop-off box yields 46 pounds in two months
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In the first two months of it being offered in the Ceres Police Department lobby, the drop box for the "Drop the Drugs" unwanted and/or expired prescription medication has yielded 46 pounds.

The service is free.

"We did not expect the amount of drugs that were dropped off," said Ceres Police Lt. Patrick Crane, who oversees the program in Ceres. "We had anticipated not having to clear the bin for six months. It was almost full after two. I am very happy with the results."

Jim Rokaitis, a retired police officer and now a prevention consultant with the Stanislaus Behavioral Health Center, told the Ceres City Council in July that the program is important given the rise of prescription medication addiction and abuse.

"Many people misuse medication just out of ignorance or becoming confused about what they're taking," said Rokaitis. "And abuse is a conscience decision to use a medication outside of the way it's been prescribed."

Over half of abusers get the drugs they abuse from family members who get them legally from doctors, said Rokaitis.

"So we wanted to develop a program where the public has easy access to disposal."

Between 1999 and 2013 the amount of prescription medications in the United States have quadrupled. Opiod addiction has become a serious national problem which often leads to heroin use.

"For many, many years we saw heroin abuse in decline and ... now we're seeing heroin abuse starting to reach epic proportion and most of that is a result of prescription medication abuse."

An estimated half of those abusing prescription drugs in Stanislaus County are between the ages of 18 and 25, said Rokaitis.

The Drop the Drugs program came to Stanislaus County in 2009 through a partnership with Stanislaus Behavioral Health, the Stanislaus County Drug Enforcement Agency and federal DEA at public events. In those eight years an estimated over 19,000 pounds of prescription medications were collected. To make disposal easier, the Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department piloted a program to offer disposal drop boxes at its five offices through the county, as well as at city police stations in Modesto, Turlock, Oakdale and now Ceres.

"It's been a very successful program," said Rokaitis.

"We saw all kinds of neat bottles that show from back in the 50's and 60's - there's stuff that people have stored in their house for decades. Many of us have elderly family members that have passed away and we're stuck with boxes and boxes of medication and people used to throw them out and dumped them down the toilet and we know that doesn't work because of the environment, people are dumpster diving and finding stuff and it gets out to the public."

The local program is modeled after successful programs in Alameda and San Diego counties.

There is little or no cost to the city. The only obligation to Ceres police is package the drugs, book it for disposal and maintain it until DEA comes to pick it up for disposal.

Hypodermic syringes are accepted at drop events throughout the year and at the County Center IV, 1716 Morgan Road, Ceres, but not in the collection boxes.

Other Drop the Drugs disposal boxes, available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays, are located at:

• The Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department, 250 Hackett Road, Modesto;

• Hughson Police Station, 7018 Pine Street, Hughson;

• Patterson Sheriff's Substation, 33 S. Del Puerto Ave., Patterson;

• Riverbank Sheriff's Substation, 6727 Third Street, Riverbank;

• Waterford Sheriff's Substation, 320 E Street, Waterford.
Ceres Police Chief Brent Smith said there are plans to enlarge the police department lobby next fiscal year.