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Drop boxes curb opioid epidemic and help keep pharmaceuticals out of Lake Michigan

Posted: 6:20 PM, Jul 31, 2019
Updated: 2019-07-31 20:47:04-04
Green box for drug disposal program in southeast wisconsin

MILWAUKEE — A bright green drop box for pills, which was installed at Aurora St. Luke's Medical Center about a month ago, has become the busiest disposal site in Milwaukee County, area officials and advocates say.

Take Back My Meds MKE coalition, which aims to make it easier to get rid of pills safely, said the box is on track to collect nearly 750 pounds of pills this year.

"It tells you that there is an ocean of unused meds out there that people don’t know what to do with. If you can put a drop box in a place where people are already used to going with a lot of traffic, it will collect a lot of unused medicine," said Jon Richards, coalition director for Take Back My Meds MKE.

The drop box is the fourth of its kind at Advocate Aurora facilities. It is one of about four dozen across Milwaukee County helping to curb the opioid epidemic and keep pharmaceuticals out of Lake Michigan, Milwaukee's source for drinking water. It is an issue that drew Gov. Tony Evers to Milwaukee on Wednesday.

"Here in Wisconsin, (the) number of opioid-related deaths has nearly doubled in the last decade alone," Evers said.

Take Back My Meds MKE said more than 30 different chemicals were detected in Lake Michigan near Milwaukee.

"It tells you that there is an ocean of unused meds out there that people don’t know what to do with." — Jon Richards, coalition director for Take Back My Meds MKE

"Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District cannot filter those out. We pool our drinking water from Lake Michigan, so we’re bringing those into our bodies," said Amber Meyer Smith of Clean Wisconsin, an environmental group focused on keeping the state's water and air healthy.

Richards said the coalition is actively working to get more drop boxes installed in Milwaukee County.

Click here to find a drug take-back site.