On Friday, in Green Bay, I attended the Governor’s first Opioid Task Force meeting. In speaking to the task force, I noted the success of DOJ’s prescription drug disposal program and the records that have been set during the last few collections. The Lieutenant Governor thanked DOJ for our efforts, especially in light of this dose of reality: the majority of people (4 out of 5) using heroin started by abusing prescription painkillers. Because of the high turnover rate of prescription drug abuse to heroin use, our Dose of Reality campaign has promoted the following message:
- Only use prescription drugs as they are prescribed to you by your doctor.
- Store prescription drugs safely and securely.
- Dispose of unused prescription drugs promptly and properly.
Following these steps will prevent additional prescription painkiller abuse in Wisconsin, make prescription painkillers less likely to fall into the wrong hands, and stop these drugs from entering our water supply.
During our fall Drug Take Back day on October 22, the state collected 58,729 pounds of unwanted medications and prescription painkillers (fentanyl patches, too!). And during my time at the Wisconsin Department of Justice over the last two years, Wisconsin has collected more than 200,000 pounds. That’s the equivalent of 10 semi-trucks full of prescription drugs!!
Of course, we wouldn’t be this successful without the help of local law enforcement and participation from citizens like you. When this campaign launched, Wisconsin had only 152 permanent medication return boxes registered in the state. Today, there are 295 boxes in law enforcement agencies across our state. And many more permanent drug disposal boxes can be found in pharmacies, hospitals, senior centers, and soon, right here at the Risser Justice Center in downtown Madison. We know, from stories told by law enforcement about drug collection, Wisconsinites are getting into the habit of disposing of their medications regularly at permanent disposal sites, not waiting until the biannual drug take back day.
As Drug Take Back Day has grown, so has the generosity of those who support the event. This fall, Fuchs Trucking provided three semi-trucks to haul the unwanted medications to an incinerator in Indiana. And the incineration was provided, free of charge, by Covanta Energy in Indiana.
Drug Take Back Day support is also provided by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the Wisconsin Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigation, Wisconsin State Patrol, Indiana State Police, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, Waukesha County, and Waukesha County Sheriff’s Office.
The fight against this epidemic isn’t over, but with continued effort from citizens, we will save lives.