FILE PHOTO: Members of the U.S. Army of the Pennsylvania National Guard arrival by plane at a airport in Vilnius, Lithuania, Sunday, June 5, 2016. US troops arrived Sunday in Lithuania to participate in NATO maneuvers.
Brett Sholtis is WITF’s Transforming Health reporter, covering health policy and community health issues that affect Pennsylvanians. Brett strives to share personal stories that have a tie to broad issues and emerging trends. He seeks to give voice to diverse viewpoints, including those of people living with mental illness, disability and those living in poverty. He plays a key role in WITF’s mental health series, Through the Cracks, which reports on problem areas in mental health services and efforts to reduce stigma around those living with behavioral disorders. Previously, Brett was a business reporter at the York Daily Record, where his work included award-winning examinations of the nuclear power industry and food safety. He is a University of Pittsburgh graduate and a Pennsylvania Army National Guard veteran.
(Harrisburg) — Four out of five people who use heroin start out on prescription drugs. Preventing that from happening is one reason the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs is working with the Pennsylvania National Guard and police to get rid of unused narcotics and other drugs.
“While they are necessary, when used correctly, they are dangerous substances. So there’s really no point in delaying getting these things out of your medicine cabinet,” said Pennsylvania Army National Guard Col. Richard Collage, who oversees the task force.
They’re also a potential public health problem if flushed down toilets, Collage said.
The only safe way to get rid of them is to incinerate them, he said. That’s what will happen to all those drugs, once his team of soldiers and other servicemembers picks them up.
It’s the fifth year the Guard’s Counterdrug Joint Task force is working with police to collect the drugs from more than 800 drop-off centers around the state, according to the state Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs.
Since 2014, the state program has overseen the destruction of more than 537,000 pounds of prescription drugs, DDAP said in a news release.
The federal Drug Enforcement Agency says, nationally, more than 900-thousand pounds of unused medication have been destroyed, preventing misuse and keeping it out of water systems.