2023 brings an end to the Sharps Needles and Drug Disposal Program (SNADD) in Onondaga County and transitions to a new state-wide effort
There is a new system for drug disposal throughout New York State, approved by the New York State Department of Health as the result of many years of planning. Two New York State approved vendors, Inmar Rx Solutions, Inc. and MED-Project, LLC., will now collect and dispose of medications with medication boxes located at both pharmacies and police departments.
Through the new system, pharmaceutical companies will now be responsible for their products from cradle to grave. In Onondaga County, this was the number one goal of the SNADD program when it started in 2015. Many of the new medication kiosks used to dispose of unwanted medications have already been installed in pharmacies and police departments in Onondaga County and throughout the state.
With this initiative in place, the inevitable conclusion is the SNADD program will be coming to an end.
"Thank you for your support of the SNADD program in Onondaga County. We can all be proud of our efforts, having come full circle in achieving our #1 goal, seeing pharmaceutical companies take responsibility for their products. The SNADD program collected close to 22,000 pounds of unwanted, expired medication since 2015," says Gail Banach, former Director of Public Education and Communications.
As a reminder, there will be no change to syringe collection. Police departments continuing with the new medication disposal program will also continue with the needle collection at their sites as well. Be sure to check that your police department will be continuing with both collections.
The Upstate New York Poison Center has been on the frontline of drug disposal events since 2010, prior to the first national DEA Drug Take Back Event.
The Upstate New York Poison Center along with the Prevention Network, initiated the first “Drug Take Back” event in Onondaga County in 2010. Working collaboratively with Kinney Drugs and Walgreens, the “drive-in” drug drop-off model was initiated, manned by staff from the poison center, the Prevention Network, and pharmacy staff. It supervised by local law enforcement (Syracuse City, Camillus and Cicero) as dictated by federal law. Participants drove into the parking lot of Walgreen’s (Grant Blvd. and/or Cicero) or Kinney’s (Camillus) to drop off their unused, unwanted medicines. Prior to drop-off, participants were surveyed, while in their cars, to identify the kinds of medications, number of medications and medication practices in their homes. The majority of participants at the first event responded they would have left medication where they were, at home, if the event had not taken place. If they were to dispose of medications, they would “flush them.” The record amount collected from one participant for drop off on that day was 110 medications.
In 2011, the DEA held its first “Drug Take Back” event. The same year, the FDA changed its policy on disposing of household meds, guiding the public now to use kitty litter or coffee grounds to alter medications prior to disposal in household trash.
Our Poison Center and the Prevention Network again coordinated with Walgreens and Kinney Drugs to hold the event as conducted in 2011. Again, participants were queried as to the content of their drop offs and medication practices in their homes. This time, fewer people responded they would “flush their meds,” but rather the “mix with litter or coffee grounds” option was selected as often for a medication disposal method this time around. Many still responded they would “leave medications where they were.”
The first year the Prevention Network completed the application to allow us to hold this event and the poison center took on the role of event coordination. The second year, because the Drug Disposal Act was in place, no application was required, law enforcement was permitted to collect household medications on an on-going basis. Two members of each of the three police forces drove the medications collected to Oswego for incineration. At that time, we didn’t know enough about the process to ask for weights of drugs collected prior to their incineration.
In 2013 as a core member of the Onondaga County Drug Task Force, the poison center advocated the law should be changed to allow pharmacies to take back medications. The OCDTF and individual members representing a variety of agencies, including the poison center worked with our legislators to advocate for that change. The poison center was instrumental in working with Senator Schumer’s office to inform, educate and recommend.
In 2014 Senator Schumer came to Syracuse to announce the law had been changed, thanks to the support of several federal legislators, now allowing pharmacies to take back medicine at their locations. However, the DEA decided this was their cue to step away from “Drug Take Back” days. However, although the law now allowed for pharmacies to take back drugs, even the biggest pharmacies, like Walgreen’s struggled, with no plan and with many concerns about costs and security. For 18 months, the DEA led “Drug Take Back” events were on hold. In the meantime, the OCDTF and the poison center continued to advocate for reinstatement of the DEA “Drug Take Back” events. In fall 2015, Senator Schumer announced its reinstatement.
In Fall 2015, based on community need prior to the reinstatement, the OCDTF’s SNADD (Sharps, Needles and Drug Disposal) Program began. With three, then four police departments on board the SNADD Program was in place collecting 180 pounds from October to December 2015. Camillus and Cicero Police Departments were early adopters based to their previous involvement with the poison center’s drug disposal events. Baldwinsville was also on board soon after start-up.
By 2016 the momentum grew. The District Attorney held a news conference announcing the SNADD Program. OCDTF members attended. Drug drop-off events become more popular. 1,560 pounds was collected at seven police departments in 2016.
In 2017 with nine Police Departments and one college, SUNY ESF, on board, a total of 2,760 pounds of medications were collected at the sites.
In summer 2018 the Drug Take Back Act was signed into law, directing industry-funded take back of pharmaceuticals. By July 2019, any chain with 10 or more stores will be required to have a collection and disposal system in place. (N.B., Not enforced until 2022.) From January to September 2018, over 2,790 pounds were collected with a record of 550 pounds collected in September.
As of September 2018, Sheriff Conway of Onondaga County agreed to fund efforts, allowing for continued pick up of sharps from the SNADD locations that house sharps kiosks.