BOONEVILLE – “Today in Owsley County you are going to make history,” U.S. Congressman Harold “Hal” Rogers told nearly 100 people gathered at the Owsley County Senior Citizens Center Monday afternoon. “You are going to burn (Operation) UNITE’s one millionth pill.”
Rogers was referring to UNITE’s “Pill Dragon,” a mobile incinerator made possible through a collaboration with the Kentucky Army National Guard and Eastern Kentucky PRIDE.
The million-pill milestone was far surpassed, as 21,377 unused or out-of-date prescription and over-the-counter drugs were collected in just two hours – bringing the total number of pills destroyed to 1,012,760 since the Pill Dragon was unveiled in August 2010.
“The truth is prescription medication is the biggest threat to families,” Rogers said, noting most teens say they obtain their drugs from friends, family and acquaintances, often without their consent from the home medicine cabinet.
Take-back programs, such as the Pill Dragon, reduce the opportunity for youth to get drugs, either for personal use or to sell on the streets, noted Karen Kelly, director of UNITE. Proper safeguarding of medications is also important because it reduces the risk of becoming a victim of a burglary or theft.
In an effort to help Owsley County residents safely dispose of their medications, Congressman Rogers, on behalf of the Owsley County Anti-Drug Council (a UNITE community coalition), presented a medication drop box that will be available at the Sheriff’s Office year-round.
Among those on hand to show their support for the 45th “Clean Your Medicine Cabinet Out Day” program were Kentucky Senator Robert Stivers of Manchester; Owsley County Judge-Executive Ronnie DeBord, Owsley Schools Superintendent Tim Bobrowski, Owsley County Sheriff Kelly Shouse, Booneville Police Chief Johnny Logsdon, Lee County Sheriff Wendell Childers, Beattyville Police Chief Greg Brandenburg, members of the Kentucky National Guard Joint Support Operations in London, Kentucky Senator Chris Girdler of Somerset, and Donna McClure, field representative for U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell.
“If you really want to see the cost of drugs … go to a Family Court, go to a Drug Court, and see how many children are being affected,” Senator Stivers stated. “This is a big day. I have watched what’s happened with the culture of drugs (throughout the state).”
During his remarks, Rogers praised Stivers “for picking up the banner” to get state money for UNITE initiatives in the wake of federal cutbacks over the past few years.
The importance, Rogers continued, can be seen through the efforts of volunteers in counties such as Owsley. “You are fighting the good fight.”
As part of the celebration, Rogers presented Lt. Col. Bryan Howay of the National Guard with a “Difference Maker” award in recognition of their ongoing anti-drug efforts and support for UNITE’s education and law enforcement initiatives.