Police in Kanawha County hold drug take-back

Chip Ellis
This sign advertising the National Drug Take-Back Initiative hangs on a door at the Kanawha County Sheriff's Department detachment in Sissonville.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- "Got drugs?"That was the question many law enforcement agencies across the area were asking residents Saturday during the latest National Take-Back Initiative.The program, a service of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, allows people to bring their unneeded or expired medications to police officials around the country for safe disposal.The Kanawha County sheriff's deputies collected medications at the department's Sissonville, St. Albans and Chelyan detachments. Charleston police officers were set up in Kanawha City and at a pharmacy on the West Side.This year -- perhaps because of the rainy weather for most of the morning -- the Sissonville detachment saw less activity than it has in years past, said Detective J.A. Ratliff of the sheriff's department"This station hasn't been as active," Ratliff said. "It's still worthwhile. Every pill we get off the street is one less we have to worry about, law enforcement-wise."Last October, Americans turned in more than 377,086 pounds of medications that were unwanted or expired, according to the DEA.Ratliff has volunteered with drug-take back events for three years."The first year, we filled one garbage bag [with drugs]," Ratliff said. " Last year, two. The last two years, we had pretty weather. This year, not as nice but, who knows, the other stations may have done better."At the West Side Walgreen's, where two Charleston police officers sat in an unmarked cruiser, that wasn't the case.
"[It's been] sporadic," Corporal T.E. Thompson said. "You could count them on one hand -- probably five or six."He added that many people hadn't heard of the event.One person who did hear was Emily Laforce, a New York native who is serving as an Americorps VISTA worker at Step by Step in Charleston. Laforce, a member of the drug task force in St. Albans, brought the unneeded contents of her medicine cabinet to the West Side drug store.Laforce said she participated because of the environmental dangers linked to flushing the pills and because she did not want the drugs to fall into the wrong hands.She expressed concern over a phenomenon called "pharm parties," during which teenagers bring different types of drugs and put them in a bowl. The teenagers then swallow a handful of them, not knowing what they are.
"Kids are dying at these parties," she said.Thompson said the event is beneficial for those who are cleaning out their medicine cabinets and wondering what to do with unneeded medications. One man brought the pills he took following a recent surgery because he didn't want his 16-year-old daughter to get hold of them, Thompson said.The take-back event offers a safe, anonymous place for people to get rid of them, he said."We don't look, we don't ask [about the drugs]," Thompson said. "We're here to make sure it's safe and that no one tries to get them."Reach Lori Kersey at lori.kersey@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1240.
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