NORTH SALEM, N.Y - A new medication drop box has been installed at the North Salem Police Department, giving residents a way to properly discard medications without having to wait for scheduled prescription take back days in the community. It is one of 12 boxes in Westchester that was purchased through an $8,000 grant secured by state Sen. Terrence P. Murphy.

“The abuse of prescription drugs continues to be a major public health concern in New York State,” said Murphy at a press conference with Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino and other officials held at the 66 June Road building on Jan. 27. “I am proud to partner with County Executive Astorino and to be able to deliver the needed grant money to make this project a reality. Having hosted a number of medication take back programs, at which we averaged nearly 200 pounds of discarded medications, it became clear more disposal options were needed for our residents.”

With the installation of the 12 new drop boxes, almost every municipality in Westchester now has a secure place for residents to dispose unused drugs.

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“Prescription medication can be a life saver when properly used, but when not properly disposed of they can be a real health and safety issue,” Astorino said. “Thanks to Senator Murphy’s efforts, we are able to install the final 12 drop boxes in the county, where residents can take their unused medications for proper disposal. Don’t throw them in the trash, don’t flush them down the toilet and don’t just leave them lying around the house. Go to your nearest drop box and dispose of them properly.”

The boxes give households a safe option to dispose of expired, discontinued or unwanted medications in a manner that takes into account public health, as well as the environment.

“Disposing these medications is important on two fronts,” said Legislator Francis Corcoran, who also attended the press conference. “It takes these pharmaceuticals out of the environmental waste stream. It also removes any potential use by children or young people.”

A major concern is that drugs left in the home can end up in the wrong hands—stolen for sale, or worse, ingested by unsuspecting children.

“The best way to keep people from  dying of overdoses is to not have the drugs available to them. this is part of removing the drugs, so the children do not have access to them,” said Westchester Commissioner of Health Sherlita Amler. “Children tend to start on the road to heroin using prescription drugs. Most people do not start by taking heroin.”

Medication drop boxes are located in secure buildings and bolted to the floor to ensure that no one has the ability to steal the medications. After being collected, the prescriptions are brought to an incinerator and burned so the drugs do not go into the environment.

“People do not realize how many medications they hold on to in their cabinets,” said North Salem Town Supervisor Warren Lucas. “This is a way to get the prescription drugs out of the home and out of the kids’ hands. It is not just something for parents to think about. Grandparents need to think about it, too.”

In addition to North Salem, the grant money allowed for boxes to be installed in Bronxville, Dobbs Ferry, Elmsford, Hastings-on-Hudson, Larchmont, Mamaroneck, Pelham Manor, Pelham, Tuckahoe and White Plains.

Westchester County is a pioneer in the medicine return effort, having started the practice back in 2008. By 2013, County Executive Astorino increased the number of Westchester police departments and municipal buildings equipped with the medication drop boxes. Currently, there are 39 drop boxes in Westchester.