Vineyard installs disposal box for unused medications

City teamed up with advocacy group in anti-opioid addiction effort.

(Leah Hogsten | Tribune file photo) In this 2017 file photo, singer-songwriter Emme Packer-Koons said her days revolve around pain management, including taking dozens of pills. The city of Vineyard is taking steps to fight against the opioid epidemic by offering a new way of disposing unused prescription medications.

The city of Vineyard has installed a receptacle that destroys unused pills and medications in an effort to combat opioid addiction.

During a Facebook livestream, Vineyard City officials were joined with executives from NarcX, an advocacy organization that works with medical practitioners and communities, in installing the receptacle located inside Vineyard’s city offices. It is now available for public use.

The NarcX On-Site Collection Receptacle allows residents to dispose of unwanted, expired and leftover prescription medications. It contains a solution that turns pills and capsules into a sludge, making them inert and unable to be consumed. NarcX’s receptacle is compliant with Drug Enforcement Administration policy and federal regulations for medication disposal and destruction.

“We’re excited to be able to help and partner with Vineyard City,” Gavin Collier, NarcX co-founder, said. “The goal is to get opiates off the street so our loved ones do not misuse or suffer an overdose, which has substantially increased over this pandemic.”

More than 81,000 drug overdose deaths occurred in the United States in the 12 months before May 2020, the highest number of overdose deaths ever recorded in a 12-month period, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

While overdose deaths were already increasing prior to 2020, these numbers may suggest an acceleration of overdose deaths during the pandemic.

Vineyard is the first city in Utah County to install a drug disposal unit using NarcX’s technology.

Vineyard already has a prescription drug collection box monitored by the Utah County Sheriff’s Department, which was installed as an Eagle Scout project by Vineyard resident Merrick Stilson. This new receptacle takes medication disposal to the next level, by destroying the pills.

“Vineyard City is taking larger steps in the fight against the opioid epidemic by offering this new way of disposing narcotics and other prescription medications,” Cristy Welsh, a Vineyard City Council member, said. “Our hope is this new approach will help our residents stop stockpiling old pills, which often lead to addiction. We want everyone to understand that this is an issue that affects everyone.”

Welsh demonstrated how to use the disposal box during the livestream. She recommended disposing of empty medication containers at home due to privacy concerns.

Vineyard Youth Council member Holland Welch was a driving force in bringing the NarcX program to Vineyard. Welch advocated to city leaders the need for an opioid disposal unit and informing residents of the danger of overdose and addiction by keeping unused opioid medications in their homes.

“I wanted to contribute to the health and safety of my community,” Welch said. “National opioid initiatives have taken a backseat to COVID health initiatives and the problem of opioid abuse is increasing.”

The city of Vineyard encourages residents to dispose of unused opioids and other medications that are in their homes where they could be a risk to their families or be stolen and sold on the street illegally.

“This product can save lives,” Collier said. “It’s about awareness and educating ourselves as to what the risks of having these pills in our homes are.”

The receptacle will be available for residents and surrounding communities to use during Vineyard City office hours.