While many people were celebrating the Fourth of July weekend, two representatives from Oro Valley were paying tribute to a local program that also is important.

Long-time resident Don Cox and Oro Valley police Sgt. Amy Sloane traveled to the 93rd annual Optimist International Convention in Baltimore to make a one-hour presentation on their Dispose-A-Med program.

The program encourages people to bring in their unused and expired prescription and over-the-counter medications to be properly disposed. In doing so, people also reduce the possibility that children will abuse the medications that can be easily obtained from their home medicine cabinets. The program also oversees the proper disposal of medicine containers. It is a partnership of the Oro Valley Optimist Club, Oro Valley Police Department, Drug Enforcement Administration, Golder Ranch Fire District, SOBER Project, Meth Free Alliance and Pima County Wastewater.

About 25 people from the United States and Canada attended the presentation, which addressed the current issues of prescription drug abuse among teens as well as how statistically the number of deaths and overdoses from prescription drugs has increased dramatically over the years.

“We told them how to set up a program, who to contact, and gave them handouts on the supplies they will need to do one of these programs,” Cox said. “The response was very, very positive.”

Audience members approached Cox after the presentation to say how much they liked the idea.

“There was one gentleman from Fort Worth who came up to me after the program and said this was the best thing he had heard of in years,” Cox recalled. “He said, ‘I am taking this back to Fort Worth, and I am going to get this started as fast as I can.’”

The concept is a great idea and has been well received in Oro Valley.

“We have been tremendously successful (with the Dispose-A-Med program),” Cox said. The Oro Valley Optimist Club and the Oro Valley Police Department have been conducting the program for four hours at a time, one Saturday a month for 19 months, for a total of 76 hours.

During that time, Dispose-A-Med volunteers have collected roughly 1.2 million pills, based on 800 to 825 pills per pound of pills collected.

Due to the success and attention the program has had, Optimist International is considering making it one of the club’s signature programs.

“There are four or five other programs that are signature programs for Optimist International,” Cox said. “These are programs that Optimist International then pushes. Every club is autonomous and can do anything they want to raise money for kids, but these are programs that they would like them to include.”

The next Dispose-A-Med event will be held on July 30 from 8 a.m. to noon. Events are held at the Oro Valley Target, 10555 N. Oracle Road.

The Oro Valley Optimist Club funds the medication collections with a golf tournament. For more information about the club, visit www.orovalleyoptimistclub.org

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