The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department has collected over 6,000 pounds of medicine through Operation Medicine Cabinet, according to the department’s Public Information Assistant and Crime Prevention Specialist Pamela Relyea.
Started in 2009 by Sheriff’s Department and Public Works Department as a semi-annual drug drop-off event, the program expanded its services in January 2010 to include permanent drop-off sites in nine sheriff substations throughout the county. These sites offer community members a safe and environmentally friendly way to dispose of excess or expired prescription or over the counter medication.
“There is a great need in the community to take unwanted drugs,” said Relyea, adding that in some drop-off locations, the 50-pound box needs to be emptied daily due to reached capacity. Relyea said that although the program has been most successful in larger areas of the county with bigger populations, it has nevertheless been “in high demand and very steady and popular all over” and has elicited “nothing but praise” from the community.
Along with receiving local approval, Operation Medicine Cabinet has been recognized on a state level for its efforts. This past December, the California State Association of Counties bestowed one of 14 annual Challenge Awards to the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Office for its innovative work with the program.
Operation Medicine Cabinet aims to rid the community of youth drug abuse, accidental child and pet ingestion, improper adult use, and water contamination, according to the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department website. In order to increase awareness of these hazards and to promote Operation Medicine Cabinet’s cause, Relyea regularly makes public service announcements on the radio, keeps in touch with news sources, speaks at senior events and schools, and coordinates with the DARE program.
In addition to its work with Operation Medicine Cabinet, the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Department will team up with the Drug Enforcement Administration Saturday April 30 to host the county’s second annual Take Back Day. Between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Community members can bring unused or expired drugs to the Camino Real Shopping Center in Goleta, Veteran’s Hall in Solvang, or the CVS Heritage Bank Shopping Center in Orcutt, no questions asked.