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SVMC is the first non-police department in the state to install a drug collection box.

SVMC Becomes 24-Hour Drug Take-Back Location

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The box in the lobby looks like a mailbox and is monitored by video.

BENNINGTON, Vt. — With the installation of a specialized MedSafe collection box, Southwestern Vermont Medical Center has become a 24-hour drug take-back location. It is the first non-police department in the state to fulfill this role.

"We know that leftover and expired prescription drugs, when disposed of improperly, can be diverted or pollute the environment," said SVMC President and CEO Thomas A. Dee. "We are proud to make safe disposal of unused medications more convenient for our community."

The MedSafe collection receptacle is located in the lobby of SVMC at 100 Hospital Drive in Bennington. It looks like a mailbox, featuring a one-way medicine drop. It can be used to dispose of unused or expired controlled substances, non-controlled substances, and even over-the-counter medications. The lobby is open 24 hours a day.

Several features ensure security, including a double-locked front panel. Medications can be removed for disposal only when both a member of the Bennington Police Department and a member of the hospital staff are present. In addition, the box will be monitored by video.

Disposing of unused and expired medications at a drug take-back location prevents the drugs from being abused or sold. In the past, people often flushed medications down a toilet or drain, which can cause pharmaceutical contamination of the water supply.

"A secure drug take-back location, like this one and those at law enforcement agencies, is the only safe way to dispose of unused and expired medications," Dee said.

The program was made possible through The Collaborative; Regional Prevention Partnership, a grant from the Vermont Department of Health; and cooperation from the Bennington Police Department, notably Chief of Police Paul J. Doucette and Lieutenant David Dutcher.

Maryann Morris, executive director of The Collaborative, a Londonderry, Vt.-based non-profit whose mission is to create a supportive, substance-free community for youth, obtained funding and provided technical assistance for the project through the Regional Prevention Partnership, a program of the Vermont Department of Health. She has worked for years with the community-based Bennington County Prescription Drug Task Force, a group that The Collaborative leads, to improve collection efforts.

Prescription drug collection totals for Bennington County, the third smallest county in the state, are regularly the third largest in the state, Morris noted. This is a good indication that the community is receptive to the idea and that additional collection sites are needed.

"The task force and I are really excited to see this project come to fruition," Morris said. "We know that it will get harmful drugs off counters and out of medicine cabinets, away from those with drug-seeking behaviors and those who may be compelled to try the medications without a prescription."

SVMC is the only small hospital in Vermont offering a drug take-back location and the only hospital in the state offering the service around the clock.

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