County starts new effort to take opioids out of homes
Charles pilots new initiative to cut down pill addiction
Carrie Tiller, a patient in the Charles County Jude House, knows exactly what path opioids can lead a person down.
After a car accident more in 2008, Tiller, a mother of two, said she got into a car accident, totaled her truck and had damage to her clavicle. She went to the hospital and was prescribed pain killers to cope with her injuries.
That’s when it all started, she said.
“It didn’t start out as too much. But within two months I was exceeding the need,” Tiller said.
Before too long, Tiller said, she was visiting multiple doctors to get multiple prescriptions, stealing medication from loved one’s
medicine cabinets and selling prescriptions just to be able to buy more.
After a short stint in jail, Tiller began to take heroin in place of the drugs she could no longer afford after her release. She separated herself from her loved ones before she was eventually indicted on theft charges and sentenced to 14 years in prison.
“I just didn’t care about myself or anything around me,” Tiller said. But then she had an epiphany. “I’m alive,” she said. “I was still alive. And that was enough” to change the way she thought.
Tiller sought help and was eventually granted a “release on commitment” into a drug rehab program with the Jude House. Now, she said, she’s sharing her story to show what kind of people the county’s drug take back program can save.
“It’s killing people. Good people. We need to work together to get these prescription drugs off of the street,” Tiller said. “Spread the word.”
The county’s new drug take back program, spearheaded by Charles County Commissioner President Peter Murphy (D), who is formerly an addiction counselor, aims to give people the opportunity to send unneeded drugs away and remove the possibility of them ending up in the streets or in the hands of children around the county.
There is state legislation that allows pharmacies to take back unneeded drugs and dispose of them, but before this new Charles County initiative there were not clear ways of doing it, Murphy said. But in partnering with local pharmacies around the county, citizens can now get drugs out of their homes.
“People would flush them down their toilets, put them in the trash and they would go in our landfills. And worse, they would leave them in their medicine cabinets,” Murphy said. “What this initiative does today is it makes a program that would be more convenient to our citizens.”
Funded by a $20,215 grant from the state, the program puts medication disposal boxes in six local pharmacies across the county. Citizens are given paid postage package bags from the pharmacy they are returning their drugs at and can drop it into the bag is sent to a company specializing in destroying the drugs.
Unlike the state and county’s “Take Back” drug day, where the Charles County Sheriff’s Office disposes of opioids given to them by citizen’s, this initiative is continuous. As long as the pharmacies the boxes are located at are open, citizens may turn their unused prescriptions in.
“Then they’re off the streets,” Murphy said.
The county already had prevention initiatives in place through the school system and the county’s sheriff’s office, Murphy said, but this adds another layer to hopefully remove more unused prescriptions and continue to reduce the recidivism rate in the county.
In order to continue raising funding for the program, it will become part of the property tax bill for citizens next year, Murphy said. The state is currently funding the program, he said, but they do have to decide if they will continue to do so. “We hope they will,” he said.
Lt. Governor Boyd Rutherford (R) said the county’s new initiative goes further in the direction of preventing people from beginning to use opioids and treating those who do rather than just incarcerating users, which is the governor’s aim.
The program that allowed Tiller a rehabilitation release is the same one that Hogan’s administration has put more funding into hoping to reduce recidivism rates across the state, Rutherford said.
The next step, he said, is continuing to educate the youth in the county about opioid use and what it can do. Teaching prevention starts early, he said.
“Virtually every third grader can tell you how bad cigarettes are for you but they can’t tell you how dangerous it is to take someone else’s prescriptions,” Rutherford said.
Charles County is the first jurisdiction in the state to have a program of this nature, he said, and will set an example other places around the state want to follow.
The county was a good place to start, he said, because it was one of the more vocal jurisdictions against opioid use when Hogan was initially campaigning. The initiative will not work overnight, he said, but “it’s a good step.”
Murphy said the county will market the initiative
with flyers in local pharmacies and at the county’s headquarters in La Plata. The county will also continue to encourage different departments to join in on initiatives in any way they can.
County Commissioner Ken Robinson (D) said Murphy’s past as a state delegate, a biologist and an addiction counselor put Charles County in the right place for this initiative.
“We wouldn’t be here without him,” Robinson said.
Tiller, who continues to work to better herself and inspire others, said she hopes the initiative works out for the better and helps people avoid the different pitfalls she went through.
Charles County Commissioner President Peter Murphy and Lt. Governor Boyd Rutherford share a laugh at the podium as they introduce the county’s new Drug Take Back program at a press conference at the Charles County Administration building on Friday.