MENDOTA - With the continued rise in prescription drug abuse, agencies such as the Illinois State Police are joining the effort to help decrease abuse of these medications. The ISP will begin accepting unused and unwanted prescription medications at five of their headquarters including LaSalle. They are working with the Save a Star Drug Awareness Foundation, which is providing the safe drop off receptacles.
But much closer to home, Trinity Healthcare in Mendota is still accepting unneeded prescription drugs, which they have done for many years. And rather than simply throwing away the medications, the clinic fills prescriptions for people who otherwise may not be able to afford their prescribed medication.
Dr. William Schuler, who started Trinity Healthcare as a free clinic a decade ago, wanted to help people get the prescription medications they needed, and he also wanted to help reduce waste. Schuler laid the groundwork for dispensing prescriptions at the clinic by telling his patients to never throw out any medicine or medical supplies, but rather, to donate those items to the free clinic knowing that someone else might be able to use them.
Even though Schuler is no longer at Trinity Healthcare, the program he started has continued under the guidance of Kim Abel. As a registered nurse, Abel sees the plight of patients who are unable to afford their prescriptions on a regular basis and is equally frustrated by the amount of medicine that goes to waste when it could be used to help save someone’s life. “We get medications such as insulin that would cost thousands of dollars,” she said. “If people bring it to us, we can then give it to someone who really needs it and we don’t charge anything.”
To get a prescription filled at Trinity, Abel said people need to bring a prescription from their doctor or a pill bottle that states refills are allowed. Everyone is welcome; there is no income or age limit. “We would rather use up this medicine instead of letting it go to waste,” she explained.
Abel, who has been with the clinic since it began, said although they will accept all types of medications, they do not keep any narcotics. Those are taken immediately to the Mendota Police Department’s drop off box for safe disposal.
Trinity Healthcare is housed inside Nightingales Resale Shop, 708 Jefferson St., Mendota. They may be reached by phone at (815) 539-6100.
Opioid Overdose Prevention
Although local prescription drug disposal programs have been in place for many years, the increase in prescription drug abuse statewide and nationally has prompted new efforts to create more awareness and to provide additional sites for safe disposal.
In announcing the new sites, Governor Bruce Rauner said the receptacles will provide people a safe way to get potentially addictive drugs out of their homes and off the streets.
David and Gail Katz, who created the Save A Star Drug Awareness Foundation after their son died from an overdose of prescription medication in 2007, said that every day about 2,500 teens use prescription drugs for non-medical use for the first time. “Prescription pills are now killing more of our youth than cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine combined,” David Katz noted.
In addition to LaSalle, receptacles will be placed at ISP District headquarters in Des Plaines, Elgin, Joliet and Collinsville.
Whether opting for local drop off or using a state police site, accepted items include over-the-counter and prescription medications, pet medications, drug samples, vitamins, liquids and creams. For safety reasons, needles, thermometers, IV bags, bloody waste and hydrogen peroxide cannot be accepted at Trinity nor should it be deposited in receptacles.
Through efforts such as this, the state hopes to reduce opioid-related deaths in Illinois by 33 percent in three years.
Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti, who co-chairs the Opioid Overdose Prevention and Intervention Task Force, said more than 2,200 people have called the state’s Opioid Helpline since its launch in December. If you or someone you know is struggling with opioid use disorder, call Illinois’ Opioid Helpline at 1-833-2FINDHELP.