Drug takeback events begin amid settlements with opioid makers

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COLUMBIA - Law enforcement agencies and other organizations will hold drug takeback events Friday and Saturday.

Workers behind the table at Harry S. Truman Memorial Veterans' Hospital took bags filled with dozens of prescriptions, either old, expired or unused.

Anthony Gallaher, the Deputy Chief of of police services, said the role of collecting is more than just throwing these drugs in the garbage. 

"We're collecting the drugs, making sure that we get everybody's name and everything off of them. We end up dumping them in the boxes and they end up going to the DEA," he said. 

People showed to get personal and family medications out of their own hands. Megan Berlemann, a mother, brought a bag filled with almost 50 bottles.

"I needed to get it out of my house. I've had it up in a closet and I've been waiting for a day like this," she said.

The medications belonged to her mother-in-law, who died recently. Dropping these off was one less thing to worry about for her family.

"I've got two small kids in the house and I didn't want to have all these medications in the house," said Berlemann. "6 and 3." 

Veteran Jim Mullendore also handed over medications and left that need in the past.

"I came here to turn the drugs I no longer use anymore back in to dispose of properly." he said, "I've had to take that stuff for injuries, and finally at 72 I can free myself from them."

Mullendore has seen what many are unable to break: an easy way to become addicted to opioids.

Recently, three opioid manufacturers agreed to a $215 million settlement in Ohio. The money will go toward recovery and damages due to the painkillers' highly addictive nature. Another settlement, a global one worth $50 billion, is in the works.

"They owe us a lot more. I think it's time to take more responsibility for what they've done," Mullendore said.

"Yep, I don't need it anymore so I'm getting rid of it," Berlemann said.

Mullendore said people need to be responsible about disposing, for the safety of others.

"Absolutely find a place to turn them in," he said. "Anywhere, to get them out of your house where theres a chance somebody might take them. "

The past three years, the VA Hospital has been able to weigh an average of 151 pounds of prescription drugs per year. This is also the first time drug take back days will accept vaping products.

Take back locations for Saturday will take place from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at: Ashland, Centralia, and Hallsville Police Departments, as well as Hickman High School and Rock Bridge High School.

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