Last year, Oro Valley Police Department school resource officer Shawn Benjamin was discouraged by the continual problem of teen drug abuse in Amphitheater high schools.
"The past few years we've seen current or recent students overdose on prescription drug abuse," said Sgt. Amy Sloane. "It rings home when that happens, and we ask ourselves as a police department how we can prevent this from happening."
Benjamin and Sloane decided to head OVPD's own take-back program.
"We were just tickled that people showed up and brought their meds and that we gained so much support," said Sloane.
The Oro Valley Optimist Club and Golder Ranch Fire District soon joined the campaign for Dispose-A-Med, the monthly program coined by the OVPD where the public can drop off their prescription drugs for proper disposal.
The event takes place in front of Target on First Avenue and Oracle Road and is open from 8 a.m. to noon. Dispose-A-Med is offered this Saturday morning, June 19 at Target.
Drugs are separated into pill or liquid categories and the labels of the prescriptions are also taken off for safe disposal. University of Arizona College of Pharmacy helps out during this process, acting as a good resource the officers can consult when unsure of a certain type of drug.
"It's great because they can ask questions like, 'What is this? Will it blow up?'" said Liz Wright, the OVPD public information officer.
"We just thought this would be a great little Oro Valley event," said Sloane. "And then we started getting phone calls from police chiefs in Texas and California asking about it, and we went 'wow, we've stumbled upon something great.'"
Dispose-A-Med does more than keep harmful chemicals from entering the water system — it keeps the drugs from getting into the wrong hands.
"What's happened nationwide is that people have been cognizant in keeping meds safe at home, but when you don't need them, then what do you do?" said Sloane.
According to the 2009 Arizona Youth Survey, the rate of youth misuse and abuse of prescription drugs exceeds all other substances with the exception of marijuana. Painkillers such as OxyContin and Vicodin are most commonly abused.