Prescription drug and opioid misuse has become a tragic epidemic with tremendous social and economic impacts, affecting communities and families of all sizes and from all socio-economic backgrounds.
“With its impact on workforce, quality of life and the economic vitality of rural communities from Maine to California, the opioid epidemic is more than just a matter of public health – it is an issue of rural prosperity,” said Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development Anne Hazlett, who has been USDA’s leading voice on opioid misuse in rural communities.
This past month, USDA agencies in Montana partnered with the Montana Attorney General’s office to take back expired and unused prescription drugs at the Drug Enforcement Administration’s 16th Prescription Drug Take Back Day. Montanans were invited to bring unwanted prescription pills and patches for free, no-questions-asked disposal at one of 36 participating collection sites across the state.
Two USDA Forest Service law enforcement officers staffed Take Back Day sites at locations in Helena, Montana, working with Lewis and Clark County deputies at each site.
In addition, USDA Rural Development, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Farm Service Agency, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, and the Forest Service worked together to promote Take Back Day internally to employees and via social media platforms to increase awareness in communities across the state.
“As our Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue travels to rural communities across America, he hears over and over again the opioid epidemic is hitting rural America hard,” said Charles Robison, state director of USDA Rural Development. “He has directed us to do our part to help break the cycle. By spreading the word about Take Back Day, we are doing our small part to help our fellow Montanans rein in opioid misuse.”
Medicines that languish in home cabinets are highly susceptible to theft, diversion, and misuse. Studies show that most misused prescription drugs come from family and friends, and often from the home medicine cabinet.
Since 2010 more than 33,000 pounds of prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications have been collected in Montana at Take Back Day events. Drugs collected at these events are destroyed through incinerators, which helps keep unwanted medications out of Montana’s communities and water supplies.
“The Forest Service Law Enforcement and Investigations unit was proud to partner with our sister USDA agencies and the Montana Attorney General to do our part in supporting the Administration’s efforts to curb the opioid and prescription drug abuse epidemic,” said Michael Lofton, acting special agent in charge for the Northern Region.