By REBECCA WEBSTER
Recorder News Staff
On Saturday, residents across Montgomery County -- and the country -- will have the opportunity to properly dispose of their unwanted medications.
That opportunity comes as a result of a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration program known as National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, a program that has been happening across the country for the past six years.
Last year, at the September take-back day, Americans turned in 244 tons of prescriptions drugs, according to a news release from the governor's office.
County Undersheriff Jeffrey Smith said Thursday that the department participates every year.
"It's something that the federal government does and we get every police department in the county to participate," Smith said. "We do it every year and there are no questions asked."
There will be five drop-off locations throughout the county open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. where residents can bring in any type of drug they have, Smith explained. He added that the program is based upon federal funding, so encouraged everyone to participate while they have the chance.
"People love it because almost everybody has some type of prescription in their home," Smith said. "We want them out of the hands of kids and children."
This last piece is also something that Governor Andrew Cuomo finds one of the most important aspects.
"New York has taken strong steps to combat prescription drug abuse, but we also need families and individuals to recognize the potential danger of keeping expired or unused medications in the home and away from children," he said in a statement.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 38,000 people died from drug overdose in the United States in 2010, with most of the drugs being prescriptions.
And on top of effect on the public, the Department of Environmental Conservation website says that improper drug disposal also affects waterways.
"Until recently, consumers have been told to flush unwanted drugs. With technological advances and research, low levels of drugs are being found in our surface waters," the site explains.
DEC Commissioner Joseph Martens said in a statement that when unused and improperly disposed of, medications can harm the state's waters and the organisms within it.
"I urge New Yorkers to take any unwanted medication to one of the many collection sites," he said. "Their small act will add up across the state and help us improve New York's wonderful water resources."
Amsterdam Police Chief Gregory Culick said on Thursday that with the way disposal methods have changed, people are often confused now with what to do with old or unused prescriptions.
But the take-back day gives them the chance to get rid of the prescriptions properly and help to bring down that number of people who are harmed by overdosing on prescription drugs.
"Hopefully it's going to reduce that because you do get some of the young population who know that grandma and grandpa have a big stash of pills," Culick said. "Get rid of it. It's all prescribed for a reason because most have a narcotic effect to dull pain or solve a symptom and they are pretty potent."
Culick said he doesn't want them to fall into the wrong hands.
"Hopefully it lessens the field out there and lessens the number of available pills out there," he said. "Some people are nervous about coming to the police department with pills, but nobody is going to check into whatever they are bringing in.
"There are no questions. It's just drop it off, get rid of it, your free and there is some piece of mind."
Take-Back locations within 15 miles of Amsterdam include:
• Amsterdam Police Department, Guy Park Ave. Ext., Amsterdam
• Montgomery County Sheriff's Office, 200 Clark Dr., Fultonville
• Glenville Municipal Center Police Entrance, 18 Glenridge Rd., Glenville
• Scotia Police Department, 4 North Ten Broeck St., Schenectady
• Schenectady County Sheriff's Office, 5853 Western Turnpike, Duanesburg
• Rotterdam Police Department, 101 Princetown Road, Schenectady
• Johnstown Police Department, 41 East Main St., Johnstown