MAHOPAC, N.Y. - Town residents heeded the call earlier this month and showed up en masse at the Town Hall to dispose of unwanted and expired prescription medications as part of the Shed the Meds program.

Assemblyman Kevin Byrne sent a flyer to residents announcing the date last month and residents showed up with enough old meds to fill six large garbage bags that totaled approximately 250 pounds. The drugs were to be transported to an incinerator in Westchester County and destroyed.

“This was a team effort,” Byrne said. “We sent a mailer to residents throughout the town and there has been a tremendous response—people emptying their medicine cabinets and are getting rid of their unused or expired medications the right way. It’s so important to get rid of them safely.  It protects our drinking water and prevents someone who might abuse them from having access to them.”

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Byrne said that keeping the medications out of the hands of the wrong people was only part of the program’s goal.

“People may be flushing them down their toilets and that compromises our drinking water, and it impacts our environment,” the assemblyman said. “So, there is an additional benefit. It’s not just about protecting our young people [from taking the drugs]—there is a tremendous public health aspect to this as well.”

Byrne said that in the face of the opioid crisis that is plaguing the country, it is crucial that the unwanted and expired meds be disposed of properly. As a result, New York State lawmakers passed the Drug Take Back Act last year.

“Pharmacies are now going to be required to take back these unused medications—funded by the pharmaceutical companies,” he said.

Byrne explained that small, privately owned drug stores won’t be required to take part—it is the large chain pharmacies, such as Walgreens and CVS, that will do it. He said the law is being rolled out this year.

Meanwhile, the town of Carmel will continue to hold periodic Shed the Meds days like the recent event.

“The [level] of participation from the residents of Carmel has been very uplifting,” Byrne said. “These bags are filled with lots of highly addictive drugs.”

Supervisor Ken Schmitt stopped by the Town Hall to see how the event was going and said he was impressed.

“It’s been extremely successful today; we’ve had six full garbage bags,” he said. “It is extremely important that communities do this and get the prescription meds out of their homes. If we get them out of the home, then the temptation is not there for people to use them inappropriately. This is a way for us to help, and we will have this again in the future.”