Taking Back the Drugs

LISA GEORGE of White Salmon-Bingen Police Department assists a White Salmon resident who cleared out her medicine cabinet of left-over drugs from a family member’s post-surgery pain relief prescription.

Photo by Kirby Neumann-Rea
LISA GEORGE of White Salmon-Bingen Police Department assists a White Salmon resident who cleared out her medicine cabinet of left-over drugs from a family member’s post-surgery pain relief prescription.



Skyline Hospital in White Salmon served as the drop-off site for the National Prescription Drug Take Back Day on April 28. Skyline was the Columbia Gorge regional take back site for people in Hood River and Wasco counties in addition to Klickitat and Skamania counties in Washington.

The Take Back initiative is designed to help address the opioid abuse problem, by removing drugs from homes where they are no longer needed, so they cannot be misplaced, stolen, or fall into the wrong hands. U.S. Rep. Greg Walden (R-Hood River) crossed over to Washington state to attend the event and learn about the narcotics and harmful drugs problem from local law enforcement.

The drug take-back is a twice-annual drop-in, no questions asked, and officials do not inventory or assess what drugs are being dropped off, except by request. The drugs are bagged up and destroyed by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

In Hood River, a permanent location exists for anyone who wants to turn in drugs. It is a green metal box on the second floor of the County Courthouse on State Street. Anyone wanting to deposit drugs must ask for help at the Sheriff’s Office across the hall, but it is on a no-questions-asked basis. The box is labeled “MedReturn Drug Collection Unit” and has been in place for the past three years via a partnership with Columbia Pain Management in Hood River.

“It’s been a great service, because before that a lot of these drugs were either falling into the wrong hands or getting flushed down the toilet and doing harm,” said Hood River County Sheriff Matt English. He said his agency has seen an increase in people addicted and deputies have responded to opioid-caused deaths. The majority of parole and probation clients his department works with have some degree of opioid dependence. English also reports a rising instance of young people becoming addicted.

Walden, who serves as chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, stressed the need for action to address the public health emergency that is killing more than 100 Americans every day.

“It is time for us to act. Not to drag our feet and delay, and wait another day and another 116 people dying,” said Walden.

With Walden’s support, the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health voted to advance 56 bills as part of the committee’s ongoing efforts to combat the opioid crisis. The bills now must be approved by the Energy and Commerce Committee before being considered by the House. The bills set out to improve patient safety and bolster enforcement tools, advance prevention and public health solutions, and address coverage and payment issues within Medicare and Medicaid.

He said, “Part of the problem with dealing with the increasing problem and the flood of these medicines, is to get them out of the medicine cabinet, where they are no longer needed, and destroyed properly so they don’t end up on the black market or stolen or consumed by people who don’t need them. That’s where these take-back days matter a lot. And they’re going on all over the district.”



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