PEÑITAS — The city unveiled the county’s newest prescription drug drop-off box here on Wednesday in an effort to curb prescription drug abuse.
Located inside the Peñitas Public Library, the box is Hidalgo County’s 10th after the city of Donna opened its first box Tuesday at its local police department.
“With the drop boxes being made available and accessible for our community members, it makes it easier for them to dispose of any unwanted, unused or expired medications,” said Vianca Vieyra, a coalition special-ist with the Behavioral Health Solutions of South Texas Alliance for Drug Abuse Defense Coalition.
The coalition, which works in La Joya and Peñitas, partnered with the Peñitas Police Department to make the area’s first prescription disposal box a reality, which has been in the works for approximately eight months.
“Because Peñitas is such a rural community, transportation is a big issue … (and) Palmview (the closest box) can be too far in terms of the lack of transportation,” Vieyra said.
Police officers will monitor the box, said police chief Roel Bermea, and will contact commanders with the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, or the HIDTA program, to collect the drugs, which will be handed over to the Drug Enforcement Administration.
The box is of no cost to the city and was paid for entirely by a Texas Targeted Opioid Response grant the coalition received from Texas Health and Human Services.
Using drop boxes ensures that medications don’t get into the hands of someone who could misuse or abuse them, Vieyra said, pointing to the fact that half of people nationwide who misused prescription pain relievers in 2017, which amounts to 10.7 million, said they obtained the medication from a friend or relative for free.
This past April, on National Take Back Day, the DEA collected 2,237 pounds of unused prescription drugs from police department drop boxes across Hidalgo County, including the Roma Police Department. The drugs reflect those collected over a six-month period.
“We’ve been seeing reports all over the state that youth are abusing drugs,” said Bermea. Although pre-scription drug abuse is not a problem for the city as it is in other major metropolitan areas, “why give (youth) an opportunity (to abuse drugs)?” he said.
And while opioid abuse is relatively low in Hidalgo County, stimulant abuse is prevalent among high school and college students who misuse and abuse drugs like Adderall and Ritalin, Vieyra noted.
The drop boxes are anonymous, Vieyra said, noting that employees at the library or police departments where they are located are required not to ask questions of anyone disposing of medication. She recom-mends removing labels or scratch off personal information from prescriptions beforehand.
Any prescriptions aside from liquid medications and syringes can be disposed of using the drop box. The Peñitas Public Library is open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and from 12 to 5 p.m. Saturday.
Hidalgo County Constable Precinct #4
2814 S. Business Highway 281
Edinburg Police Department
1702 S. Closner Blvd.
McAllen ISD Police Department
2112 N. Main St.
Pharr Police Department
1900 S. Cage Blvd.
San Juan Police Department
2301 N. Raul Longoria Rd.
Donna Police Department
207 S. 10th St.
Mission Police Department
1200 E. 8th St.
Palmview Police Department
400 W. Veterans Blvd.
Peñitas Public Library
1111 Main St.
Weslaco Police Department
901 N. Airport Dr.