DEA change impacts Massena drug take-back

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration is consolodiating its pick up of unused or expired medications in St. Lawrence County. Liz O. Baylen/Los Angeles Times/Tribune News Service

MASSENA — A change in policy by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has meant a change in the Massena Police Department’s drug take-back initiative.

A 24-hour drop box is available in the lobby of the Massena department, 60 Main St., to drop off unused or expired prescription medications, but no syringes or liquids. The collected drugs are sealed in a box and taken by the DEA for disposal.

“We have what looks like a mailbox. It’s open to the community to bring any unused prescribed drugs, minus sharps, needles or anything like that, to safely dispose of them here,” Police Chief Jason Olson said. “Once that thing gets full, we take it out, package it up and put it in a secure location (for DEA pickup).”

He said the drug take-back program was implemented by the DEA several years ago to keep drugs off the street, to ensure safe and secure disposal, and to keep people from flushing medications down the toilet. The DEA would typically come to communities like Massena once every six months to pick up what had been left in the drop boxes.

That has now changed.

“They sent us an email explaining that they were no longer going to provide the service, that we were going to have to transport all of our narcotics to Plattsburgh,” Chief Olson said.

He said because of the nature of the transport, it would include two officers and a vehicle large enough to hold the drugs. That would tie up two officers for four hours, and he said they would likely have to transport the drugs more than once every six months.

Once the word came from the DEA, Mayor Timothy J. Ahlfeld contacted U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer’s office to see if they could offer assistance. The senator’s office reached out to the DEA, and they came up with a new solution.

“We reached out to Sen. Schumer when we received word that the DEA would no longer collect from us directly, and a few days later we were told they revised their policy,” Mr. Ahlfeld said.

“They are going to revise that thought, Massena being one of the largest, if not the largest intake community in the county,” Chief Olson said. “They’re going to go ahead and do a more localized pickup place in Canton.”

He said the DEA would do its last pickup in Massena on Oct. 23, and the change would take effect after that.

“At that point on, what we’ll do is once every six months we’ll transport what we have to the Canton sheriff’s office,” he said.

The St. Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office in Canton will house the drugs, along with those from other localities, and the DEA will do one pickup from that location.

“So, we’re still transporting, but it beats tying up two officers and resources for several hours,” Chief Olson said.

“We’re just happy to have some resolution and we’re thankful to Sen. Schumer and his staff for their help,” Mr. Ahlfeld said.

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