The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), as part of its National Drug Control Strategy, called for an increase of prescription drug return and disposal programs as a means to curbing prescription drug abuse. About the same time, the Benton Police Department started a program called “Operation Medicine Cabinet” in the spring of 2010, after Russell Goodwin, owner of a local monument company and youth baseball coach, told then Benton Police Chief Kirk Lane that he was “tired of making headstones for children” due to the abuse of prescription drugs. Benton officers gathered data that showed there was a problem with abuse and misuse of prescription drugs by youth, including information from the Saline County Coroner’s Office which showed that 30 people died in 2009 as a result of prescription drug abuse.
More than 146 pounds of prescription medications were collected at the first Operation Medicine Cabinet in Benton and the program and education to the public continued in growth. In 2010, a coalition led by then, State Drug Director Fran Flener, launched an on-going educational program to encourage everyone to “Monitor, Secure and Dispose” of their prescription medications. The also launched this website www.artakeback.org with an emphasis on educating and encouraging everyone to “Monitor, Secure, and Dispose” their prescription medications.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration launched the National Prescription Drug Take Back Day on September 25, 2010 in response to an epidemic of controlled prescription drug (CPD) abuse in the United States and it is held semi-annually. Arkansas supports this with core partners from the Arkansas Governor’s Office, Arkansas Attorney General’s office, Arkansas Department of Health, Arkansas Department of Human Services, Arkansas National Guard, Arkansas Rotary Clubs, Arkansas State Board of Pharmacy, Arkansas State Police, Office of Arkansas Drug Director along with more than 130 additional law enforcement and government agencies, numerous community organizations, businesses, media outlets, and public health providers. The Office of the Arkansas Drug Director works closely with the DEA in the coordination of this growing coalition, and in maintaining the Artakeback.org website.
One key to its success is the ability to have permanent collection boxes located at key locations throughout Arkansas communities. This allows the public to dispose of their unwanted medications throughout the year. Currently, Arkansas has more than 225 of permanent collection boxes, with at least one in every county in Arkansas. Collectively, there have been 18 total Arkansas Drug Take Back Day events, and 17 national events. Results from the State Take Back in spring 2015 were rolled into the total results for National Take Back 10 held September 26, 2015.
Due to the commitment, dedication, and effort of the Arkansas Law Enforcement Community, its partners, and the multi-agency coalition, and due to excellent participation by Arkansans in all areas of the state, the take back events have been successful above and beyond all expectations.