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Monday, March 18, 2013

Wallingford: Drop-box decision – Editorial in the Record Journal Sunday March 17, 2013

As published in the Record Journal on Sunday March 17, 2013

Wallingford Police Chief Douglas Dortenzio should reconsider a recent decision to deny installation of a medication drop box in his department’s station.

Abuse of prescription pills is a harmful problem in communities of all types. Ingesting analgesic opioids like Oxycontin and Percocets causes euphoric feelings analogous to taking heroin, a similarly constructed compound. And like heroin, these powerful pain-killing medications, when used recreationally and frequently, lead to addiction, increased tolerance, greater doses required to achieve highs, escalating health problems and, in some cases, overdose and death. Doctors prescribe these potent drugs for individuals in extreme pain. After removing their molars, dental surgeons may send people home with a few Percocets. It’s not uncommon for discharged patients to take analgesics appropriately until physical anguish subsides, but then leave half-filled medicine bottles in household cabinets. Friends and relatives can then steal unguarded, unused opioids for personal abuse or to sell. Addicts sometimes break into residences in search of these narcotics.

Many citizens may not realize the danger of old pills stored in closets and bathrooms. Thus, one would think Wallingford law-enforcement representatives would support local systems for collection and destruction of unwanted prescriptions. Instead, Dortenzio dismissed reasonable requests from the Coalition for a Better Wallingford to establish a public drop box in police headquarters.

The chief’s arguments are illogical. The “most common method” for prescription disposal, he curiously proffered, is for residents to throw away unwanted pills (R-J, 3-14). Surely, Dortenzio in his long career must understand that mono-focused addicts, without second thought, could rip through someone’s trash should they think Oxycontins buried within. And his suggestion that drop-box installation would cause foot traffic issues in police headquarters and parking problems outside is an overestimation of logistics.

“I can’t be a substitute for responsible citizens,” Dortenzio stated in our news story. But wouldn’t responsible action for residents be bringing drugs to police for proper, documented, supervised destruction? The chief also believed maintaining a drop box would require from his department too extensive commitment of man-hours and paperwork. However, 27 state towns already provide comparable disposal services, including Cheshire and Southington. It’s worth the extra effort to save local lives and boost community safety.

Members of the Coalition for a Better Wallingford have secured state grants and local-business support so that drop box purchase and drug destruction would cost taxpayers nothing. Brought before Town Council, the concept received mostly warm reception. Legal approval, however, may remain under the authority of Dortenzio.

He should end his resistance. At the very least, this would be symbolic of town police supporting thorough means of limiting local drug abuse. But a public drop box could also accomplish much more — it would offer residents a safer option for ridding homes of unused prescriptions while also serving as a proactive step toward deterring crime and addiction.