Making a dent in prescription drug abuse in St. Charles County could be as simple as dropping old or unused pills into a specially-made pouch, adding water and a little shaking, sealing the mixture and tossing it into a trash can.
That’s one hope behind the 10,000 drug deactivation pouches donated last month by Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals to the Boys & Girls Clubs of St. Charles County, which is distributing them to parents and families.
To distribute them, the clubs are working with schools, local government emergency providers and organizations such as Walking to Wellness – a group co-founded by Gee Vigna, a St. Peters resident whose daughter died from a heroin overdose, that holds awareness walks here and around the country.
Authorities say that simply throwing drugs out in the trash or flushing them down a toilet pose environmental and pollution threats. However, the pouches, manufactured by Minneapolis-based Verde Technologies, deactivate prescription drugs and render chemical compounds safe for landfills.
The use-friendly pouches can hold up to 45 pills, six ounces of liquid or six patches. After filling the pouches with tap water they can be sealed, shaken and thrown away in the household trash. The pouches are biodegradable and environmentally friendly. Local police departments have drop off locations for pills, but a home disposal system may be easier and more convenient.
“It doesn’t get much simpler than that,” Jeanette Koechner, director of community development for the Boys & Girls Clubs of St. Charles County, said of the pouches. “It’s worse if we flush [medications] down the stool. I really don’t want to be drinking the water and that’s what’s going to happen if we keep doing that.”
Koechner discussed the donation with the St. Charles County Council at its Sept. 26 meeting, saying that the pouches are available free from the clubs two locations in St. Charles County. Those locations are at 1211 Lindenwood Ave. in St. Charles and 1 Club Way, off Aspen Pointe Drive and Mexico Road, in O’Fallon.
The clubs have distributed about 4,500 pouches already and just received a final shipment of 5,400. About 2,000 pouches will be distributed by the Fort Zumwalt School District and the St. Charles County Ambulance District will receive 300 or more. In addition, some will go to the Walking to Wellness organization.
“We are trying to get as many of these out in the community as we can,” Koechner said. “We’re certainly not having any problem doing that.”
Koechner came before the council the same night they passed a bill establishing a prescription drug monitoring program [PDMP] for the county that will operate in cooperation with the city of St. Louis and St. Louis County that they hope may curb “doctor shopping” for prescriptions.
The Boys & Girls Clubs are nonprofit organizations supported by charitable donations and organizations such as the United Way of Greater St. Louis. The St. Charles County clubs serve more than 1,500 young people, ages 6-18, through education, after-school and sports programs, along with summer camps.
“I’ll honest with you, we don’t see it [drug abuse] here with our children, we really don’t, but we know that some of them are affected by it somewhere,” Koechner said in a later interview. “It is there, we just want our kids not be exposed to it.”
Koechner said she is not sure why Mallinckrodt choose the clubs, but suggested that “they may have seen we provide a huge community service with families and children.”
“It’s a good opportunity for us to be allowed to reach out,” she said.
Koechner said she also plans to discuss the pouches at other local government and civic group meetings. She said she’s not sure if more pouches will be available once the clubs’ supply runs out.
A spokesperson for Mallinckrodt said the donation was a one-time donation, although there may be some possibility for more becoming available later depending upon their availability. The local distribution is part of the company’s 1 million pouch donation initiative to help combat the abuse of prescription pain medication.
National surveys of U.S. adults who used opioids showed that nearly 6 of 10 had or expect to have leftover pills and, according to the company, about 68 percent of non-medical users of prescription pain relievers in 2012-13 got them from friends and relatives.