Highland County Veterans Services, in conjunction with other regional agencies including the suicide prevention wing of the Chillicothe VA and with financial sponsorship of several local businesses, is holding the first of its kind Spring Cleaning Day for the community on Saturday, May 21, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the North High Business Center in Hillsboro.
The coordinator of the event, Highland County Veterans Services’ Cailin Hoskins, said that the free event will involve a “Prescription Drug Take-Back”, an Identity Theft Prevention component that will provide free document shredding services, and a Worn and Tattered Flag disposal that will help people dispose of damaged flags in an appropriate manner.
She said that the impetus for the event arose when, “a representative from the Chillicothe VA came to talk to me about suicide prevention.” She said the representative’s, “speciality is looking at lethal means, and we started talking about how to get rid of old prescription drugs.” Hoskins said the conversation about the particular challenges involved in that endeavor led to the evolution of the event planning “and it just exploded” from there.
Creed Culbreath, with the Highland County Drug Abuse Prevention Coalition, said it is important to get rid of old medications. He described various reasons why that is necessary.
“It prevents prescriptions from ingestion by other household members,” for whom the drugs were never intended, “including babies, toddlers and pets,” Culbreath explained, also referencing the fact that small babies can indiscriminately put things in their mouths.
“It keeps prescription drugs from being sold on the streets,” Culbreath further explained, noting that there is also an environmental, public health and infrastructure reason for proper post prescription pharmaceutical disposal — that of keeping these substances, even in trace amounts, out of the water systems.
“It preserves the integrity of drinking water and aquifers, most of which have no ability to filter out chemicals from pharmaceuticals,” Culbreath said.
He also said that the disposal of excess prescription medication past its prescribed use, “reinforces the fact that each prescription is written for an individual based on what a doctor thinks would be a therapeutic dosage at that time, in consideration of that patient’s current condition and medical history. Any drug distribution outside that model is extremely dangerous.”
Culbreath said that, “One of the first overdose survivors I met had been given,” drugs that were initially, “prescribed for a family member” postoperatively. While the dosage has been customized based on the needs and unique physiology of the patient to whom they were prescribed, it “would have killed” the person who took them if not for medical intervention. He emphasized the correlation between negative, potentially fatal outcomes and unused and improperly disposed or safeguarded prescription drugs.
For the document shredding aspect of the event, Hoskins said that for people who have sensitive documents that they want to dispose of properly, to assist on identity theft prevention, “We’ve partnered with Community Action, who have recycling bins throughout the county,” to provide collection and shredding services with a company called Document Destruction.
Hoskins said that members of the public interested in utilizing these services will have convenient access to them.
“We’re going to be set up right as they pull in,” she explained.
Hoskins said the event is intended to be far more than simply a collection event, and is also an opportunity to educate the public on suicide prevention.
“May is Mental Health Awareness Month,” she said. “Organizations and vendors will be there” with more information. She said that the event facilitators are looking at it from a health and wellness perspective as well, and an opportunity to provide education and information, not simply an opportunity to get unneeded prescription drugs out of medicine cabinets where they could be potentially abused.
“From a veteran standpoint,” Hoskins explained that mental health and is a very applicable topic as, “Veterans suffer disproportionately from the combined adverse health impacts related to chronic pain and opioid use. A chronic pain diagnosis increases the risk of death by suicide even after adjusting for co-morbid psychiatric diagnoses.” Hoskins continued with more data and statistics about the respective but correlated rates of chronic pain, opioid abuse, and suicide, which are all substantially more severe among patients in the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) when compared to non-VHA enrollees.”
Hoskins said that the Worn and Tattered flag collection is a way to make sure that people’s damaged flags can be taken care of in a proper and ceremonial way.
“It’s really out of respect for our country and service members,” she said.
Highland County Veterans Services, Chillicothe VA Suicide Prevention, Highland County Suicide Prevention Coalition, Highland County Drug Abuse Prevention Coalition, Scioto Paint Valley Mental Health, and the Highland County Health Department are a few of the agencies co-presenting and providing informational resources for the event.
For more information about Highland County Veterans Services, email [email protected].
Juliane Cartaino is a stringer for The Times-Gazette.