Seeking to curb overdoses, Sheriff’s Office teams with hospital for prescription drop box

L-R: Amber Rich, community benefit specialist, Cedar City Hospital; Heidi Baxley, Iron County Prevention Coalition coordinator; Sheriff Mark Gower, Iron County Sheriff Office; Eric Packer, CEO and administrator, Cedar City Hospital; and Jordan Merrill, Intermountain community health coordinator, Cedar City Hospital, pose next to the newest drop box at Iron County Sheriff’s Office, Cedar City, Utah, date not specified | Photo courtesy of Cedar City Hospital, St. George News/Cedar City News

CEDAR CITY — Authorities and health professionals hope a new prescription drug drop box in Cedar City will help reduce opioid abuse and other drug overdoses, the leading cause of accidental death in the state.

Stock image, St. George News/Cedar City News

Cedar City Hospital and the Iron County Prevention Coalition have installed the county’s newest prescription drug drop box at the Iron County Sheriff’s Office.

A donation of $5,000 from Intermountain Healthcare to the Sheriff’s Office covers the installation and first three years of operational costs. The drop boxes provide a place for residents to safely dispose of unused or expired medication free of charge.

The drop box is open during normal office hours for the Iron County Sheriff’s Office, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday-Friday. It is located directly to the right of the front office window.

Iron County Sheriff Mark Gower said in a press release issued by Cedar City Hospital that having the drop box at the Sheriff’s Office has been a goal of his for nearly 10 years.

“It was hard to move forward back then, because the general sentiment was there ‘was already one drop box in Cedar, and that’s all that’s needed,’” Gower said. “But to me, the more drop boxes, the better. It made sense to me, as a sheriff’s department that every single day sees the effects of opioid abuse, that we have a drop box to combat this problem head-on.”

Gower said he is happy to now have the drop box at the Sheriff’s Office, but for him, it’s more than just having expired and potentially unsafe medication in someone’s home.

“Unfortunately, we do have a significant problem with prescription drugs getting in the public, out of people’s medicine cabinets,” he said. “They end up on street level, sold on a black market, and the result is people become addicted. Worse than that, the end result sometimes is we zip them up in a body bag. It has to stop.”

In this 2016 file photo, a person displays Naloxone, also known as Narcan, which reverses the effects of opioid overdose, Washington City, Utah, July 13, 2016 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

Law enforcement has seen an alarming increase in prescription opioid abuse, Gower said, as he pulled a Narcan packet out of a zippered pocket on his pant uniform. Narcan is used to treat drug overdoses in emergency situations.

“Each of us with the Iron County Sheriff’s Office carries this Narcan with us everywhere now,” he said. “In the last year, we’ve already had four lives saved because of it. We want everyone to use this drop box. I want to be emptying that drop box every single month.”

In the press release, Eric Packer, administrator and CEO of Cedar City Hospital, called the drive against excessive opioid use and abuse “one of the top initiatives of our hospital.”

Amber Rich, Intermountain Healthcare community health partner specialist, said in the press release that Iron County has not been immune to the death toll related to the opioid epidemic in the United States.

“In fact,” she said, “overdose deaths in Iron County, based on population size, are nearly double the national rate.”

According to the Utah Department of Health, the drug poisoning death rate per 100,000 in Utah is 21.7 deaths, while the national rate stands at 13.2 deaths. In Iron County the rate is 24.3 deaths per 100,000. Currently, drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the state, and prescription medications are responsible for more deaths than all illicit drugs combined.

“Prevention brings peace of mind,” Rich said. “The vast majority of people addicted to opioids get them from a family or friend. If you don’t have pills in your home, you prevent the potential hazard. If you do have prescription medications in your home that you’re currently taking, keep them locked up and out of reach just like you would any other dangerous chemical in your home. When you’re done with a prescription, use a drop box. Don’t leave it around the house.”

Drop Box Locations in Iron County

Iron County Sheriff’s Office
  • 2132 N. Main St., Cedar City.
  • Hours: Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Cedar City Police Department

  • 10 N. Main St., Cedar City.
  • Hours: Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Parowan Pharmacy

  • 20 N. Main St., Parowan.
  • Hours: Monday – Friday, 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Township Pharmacy

  • 108 W. 1325 North, Cedar City.
  • Hours: Monday – Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

For more information and to find a collection site near you, visit the Utah Take Back website.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews

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