Guiding Hearts with Hope

Posted: May 29, 2012

An effort by a Hanover woman to help a loved one deal with the disease of addiction has developed into successful drug collection and outreach efforts.

Martha King began her journey while dealing with gaps in the system of treatment for those dealing with addiction. As she educated herself, she became aware of the problems associated with prescription drug abuse. That led to a desire to take action to remove an important source of drugs in the home – the unused and unwanted medications in medicine cabinets.

According to a May 3, 2012 Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) press release, “This initiative addresses a vital public safety and public health issue. Medicines that languish in home cabinets are highly susceptible to diversion, misuse, and abuse. Rates of prescription drug abuse in the U.S. are alarmingly high--more Americans currently abuse prescription drugs than the number of those using cocaine, hallucinogens, and heroin combined, according to the 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Studies show that a majority of abused prescription drugs are obtained from family and friends, including from the home medicine cabinet.”

The first Drug Take-Back Collection in Hanover was organized in September 2010 in partnership with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP), pharmacists, Pennsylvania State and local police, the Watershed Alliance of York (WAY) and the York County Solid Waste Authority (YCSWA). It was a complex effort. A commercial medical waste disposal company had to be engaged. Funds had to be raised to pay for disposal. Pharmacists were needed to categorize medications and law enforcement to collect and transport controlled materials. A Town Hall meeting preceded the collection with information from pharmacists, York and Adams counties coroner’s offices, Pennsylvania State and local police, the Watershed Alliance of York (WAY) and Adams County Environmental Services. They discussed law enforcement, medical, and environmental issues involved in proper disposal of drugs. The York County Solid Waste Authority (YCSWA) provided local disposal information.

A second Drug Take-Back collection was held in April 2011 as part of the National DEA Drug Take-Back Initiative. This was easier than the first, explained Ms. King because drugs did not have to be identified, counted and sorted and DEA arranged for disposal of the pharmaceuticals collected. Four days after the first successful DEA Take-Back Day in 2010, Congress passed legislation amending the Controlled Substances Act to allow the DEA to develop a permanent process for people to safely and conveniently dispose of their prescription drugs. After President Obama signed the Safe and Secure Drug Disposal Act of 2010 on October 12, DEA immediately began developing regulations for a more permanent solution. The regulations have not yet been completed and released, but are expected by the end of the year.

A third Drug Take-Back collection was held in October 2011, again part of the National DEA Drug Take-Back Initiative, which sponsors events in the spring and fall.

The most recent drug collection, held on Saturday April 28, 2012 was a great success. A second town hall meeting with a panel of speakers consisting of: Martha King, Guiding Hearts with Hope; Special Agent Craig LeCadre, Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General; Gary Peacock, WAY; and Diane Oleson, Penn State Extension preceded the collection. Guiding Hearts with Hope of Hanover in collaboration with DEA, WAY, YCSWA, state police, Hanover law enforcement and participating pharmacies collected unused medications at eight locations across York County. Two Giant pharmacies in Hanover collected 984 pounds in 4 hours. Forty three additional Giant pharmacies participated as collection sites throughout the state. Collection amounts have been increasing steadily with each collection with the involvement of more collection sites and additional outreach to the public. Additional partners include the York County Solid Waste Authority, Penn State Extension, and the York County Conservation District.

The Drug Enforcement Agency reports that, nationwide on April 28th, citizens turned in a record-breaking 552,161 pounds (276 tons) of unwanted or expired medications for safe and proper disposal at the 5,659 take-back sites that were available in all 50 states and U.S. territories. When the results of the four DEA Take Back Days held to date are combined, the DEA and its state, local, and tribal law-enforcement and community partners have removed over 1.5 million pounds (774 tons) of medication from circulation.

Ms. King is continuing her efforts to obtain 501-C3 status for Guiding Hearts with Hope. She is looking for community volunteers and working with partners within York and Adams Counties to develop a Pharmaceutical Disposal Task Force to increase knowledge and education about proper disposal avenues available to the public and awareness of the magnitude of the social and environmental impacts of the problem.

For more information on Guiding Hearts with Hope, contact:

Martha L. King, CRS
Guiding Hearts with Hope
P.O. Box 485
Hanover, Pa. 17331

Contact Information

Diane Oleson, M.S.
  • Extension Educator, Renewable Natural Resources
Phone: 717-840-7429