PROVIDENCE R.I. (WPRI) – Law enforcement, health officials, and Walgreens came together in Providence Saturday morning to tackle the drug overdose epidemic.
The Walgreens store on Elmwood Avenue in Providence was one of two dozen locations around the state where people could drop off old prescription medications to be disposed of safely.
Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, head of the Department of Health, told Eyewitness News that drug takeback events have contributed to a slight drop in the number of prescription drug overdose deaths the Department sees, but overall, the number of fatal overdoses is still increasing.
Often the road to addiction starts with prescription drugs.
“Sometimes they’re misused and sometimes they’re abused,” Mike Christie of Walgreens said. “So when we can be a partner on the community on a daily basis, it makes things like this even more impactful, because this is where it all started.”
The chain plans to open 500 permanent drug drop-off sites nationwide this year, including two in Rhode Island.
Colonel Steven O’Donnell, superintendent of the Rhode Island State Police, agreed that many times addiction can start with legally-prescribed drugs, so the State Police efforts to combat street-level drug use are just a part of the overall strategy to combat overdose deaths.
“We ramp up heroin arrests as much as we can, and fentanyl arrests,” he said, “but you’re never going to arrest your way out of this problem.”
There is also another motivation to dispose of old medications, police said – curious kids getting into medications accidentally.
“Accidents can happen,” Providence Police Captain George Stamatakos said, “and we’re all about preventing those accidents so no parent would want to have to call 911 because their child accidentally overdosed on medication that shouldn’t even be in the house.”
Stamatakos said that after the previous drug takeback event in Providence, he went home and discovered many expired medications in his own home – so he dropped them in the drug takeback bin at the lobby of the Providence Police Department, which is always open and available. Many other police departments around the state offer the same option.