JOSHUA TREE — If you have old or unwanted prescription medications, you can now take them to a drop-box in the lobby of the government center here. It’s a new service that the sheriff’s station and nonprofit leaders say could be not only a convenience, but a way to stem the tide of drug addiction.
“A lot of times, young people get started on opioids because they found them in their parents’ medicine cabinets,” said Diana Fox, executive director of Reach Out, the nonprofit that spearheaded the box installation.
“That’s how they get hooked, and they go on to harder drugs, especially heroin.”
Reach Out is an Inland Empire charity that was founded to address substance abuse and now also addresses other community needs like good nutrition. It has sponsored drop boxes in several communities. The new one in Joshua Tree was introduced with a ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday.
“Where we have put prescription drop boxes, we have taken over two tons of unwanted prescriptions off the streets,” Fox said.
“This is one link in the chain needed to fight opioid addiction.”
While San Bernardino County hasn’t been as devastated by painkiller addiction as some other regions, it isn’t immune, either. In 2017, 57 people in this county died by overdosing on opioids, according to the state Department of Public Health.
County emergency rooms reported 259 visits from people suffering from opioid overdoses, excluding heroin. In a county of roughly 2.1 million people, 1.4 million prescriptions for opioids were written in 2017.
“That kind of gives you the idea of how pervasive it is and the uphill battle we’re starting on,” Fox said.
She admitted she once had a family member living with her who was stealing her old prescription drugs. “I had no idea it was happening,” Fox said. “I was unknowingly feeding her addiction.”
She urges everyone to monitor their prescription pills and get rid of them as soon as they’re not needed.
Capt. Trevis Newport, commander of the Morongo Basin sheriff’s station, said the drop-box is a good start toward preventing drug abuse.
“The source of most of our problems here is drug addiction,” Newport said. “This is one step toward clearing that issue up.”
The drugs will be incinerated at another location. The sheriff’s station takes care of monitoring and transporting them.