By Donald Wittkowski
Rocco Santarcangelo, an 81-year-old Sea Isle City resident, wanted to get rid of some of his prescription heart medicine lying around the house because it was past the expiration date.
“Normally, they would be sitting around the house and someone might touch them,” he said of his old pills.
His biggest fear is that his 18-month-old grandson would accidently find the bottle of pills if he left them at home.
But on Monday morning, Sea Isle began offering Santarcangelo and other local residents a new way to safely dispose of their unwanted or old prescription medications. Located in the lobby on the first floor of City Hall is a medicine drop box that will be available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Santarcangelo, a retired life insurance salesman, simply slipped the bottle of his old heart medication into the slot on the drop box. It took him no more than a few seconds to dispose of the old pills.
Sea Isle Mayor Leonard Desiderio, who watched Santarcangelo, hopes other people will do the same thing.
“We want this box to be full,” Desiderio said. “We do not want this medication to get in the wrong hands. This is the best way.”
Sea Isle is the latest municipality to join the New Jersey Attorney General’s “Project Medicine Drop” initiative, a program that targets the state’s opioid crisis.
It will allow Sea Isle residents to take “an active role” in the fight against the epidemic of opiate and heroin addiction, which often is fueled by the abuse of prescription painkillers, Desiderio said.
The mayor was joined by a number of local, county and state representatives during a press conference to unveil the medicine drop box.
Linda Romano McGloin, special assistant to the director of New Jersey’s Division of Consumer Affairs, noted that the drop box allows residents to dispose of unwanted medications “without having any questions asked.”
With Sea Isle joining the program, there are now 260 medicine drop boxes located across the state, including 12 in Cape May County, she said.
The discarded medications are incinerated. In 2017, the state was able to dispose of about 84,000 pounds of unwanted medications, including 2,131 pounds in Cape May County, through the Project Medicine Drop program, according to Romano McGloin.
Cape Assist, a drug treatment and prevention organization in Cape May County, funded Sea Isle’s medicine drop box. Katie Faldetta, executive director of Cape Assist, said medicine drop boxes across the state are crucial for keeping prescription painkillers out of the hands of young people.
“One thing we can do is to control the access to medications. That’s why prescription drop boxes are so important,” Faldetta said.
Frank Roach, president of the AARP chapter in Sea Isle, stressed that the drop boxes also give senior citizens a safe and convenient way to throw out old medications.
“It definitely helps them,” he said.
Roach noted that seniors are at risk of having their medicine cabinets raided by drug abusers. The AARP is trying to teach seniors to keep their prescription medications in a more secure place, such as the nightstands next to their bed.
“We have to start changing the way we do things,” Roach said.