When Grand Valley State University, Liberal Arts senior, Carrie Uthe, began exploring a topic for her senior thesis that would relate to her goal of Health Care Management, the choice was an easy one; the task a bit more daunting, “I have children with special needs,” said Carrie Uthe, MSO/Provider Relations Specialist, Lakeshore Health Network, “that have required us to try many different medications over time. With a medicine cabinet full of unwanted medications and no where to take them, this led me to collaborate for a solution of a medication disposal program for Muskegon County.
We were learning about the impact medications were having, not only on the environment, but also children’s health, safety and the birth factor.”
“Recent studies throughout the U.S. have revealed the presence of trace amounts of pharmaceutical compounds in surface and ground water.” reported Michigan DEQ, Michigan Sea Grant and Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant in a public service bulletin they co-authored, “Pharmaceutical contamination of water has a negative impact on the aquatic ecosystem, including fish, birds and other wildlife. Currently, the risk to humans is unknown so more study is needed. Experts believe that an increase in antibiotics in water may lead to antibiotic resistance in pathogenic organisms. Scientists have not determined how much of the pharmaceutical contamination of water is due to human excretion and how much is derived from medications people flush down toilets and sinks.”
With encouragement from her employer, Uthe began researching medical disposal programs in other communities. Smaller scale “take back” programs, as they are often referred to, have been successful in capturing hundreds of pounds of unwanted medications in Ottawa County and Allegan County.
“We learned from another environmental group,” explained Uthe, “that you need to have law enforcement involved to take back controlled substances. Usually it has been done by hazardous waste divisions. We’ve been able to partner with the Muskegon County Sheriffs Department, as well as a number of other organizations.”
Nearly twenty organizations representing, health care providers, pharmacists, City, County and State Government and non-profit agencies have joined forces to form the Muskegon Area Medication Disposal Program (MAMDP). Future “take back” events are scheduled for April, June, August and October of 2010, according to Uthe. “Ours is the first coalition, where we’ve brought several organizations together as a community.”
The first Muskegon Area Medication Disposal event for residents of Muskegon County is scheduled for:
Date: Saturday, February 20, 2010
Time: 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Where: Norton Shores Fire Station, 1100 E. Pontaluna Road, Norton Shores
What: Unused or expired, over-the-counter or prescription medications
When dropping off medication, residents are reminded to mark out personal patient information. Leave medication information visible.
•Narcotics/DEA Scheduled/Controlled Drugs
•Medicated Ointments & Lotions
•Cold & Flu medicines
Items not accepted:
•Needles/sharps including Epipens
•Biohazardous materials (anything containing a bodily fluid or blood)
•Personal care products (shampoos, soaps, lotions, sunscreens, etc.)
•Household hazardous waste (paint, pesticide, oil, gas)
•Hydrogen peroxide, rubbing alcohol, etc.
The medication disposal program represents one of the best local efforts to date. Uthe’s ability to enlist the support of other members in the coalition speaks well of her organizational skills and healthcare expertise, and offers promise for the concept to expand regionally and even nationally.
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Recent articles on medical waste appearing in this section:
2010 Suggested Guidelines for the Disposal of Unwanted Medications
Spectrum Health expands its sustainability efforts
For more information and a complete schedule of future “take back” events, visit: