OWINGSVILLE – Bath County citizens brought 56,826 pills for destruction during a free “Clean Your Medicine Cabinet Out Day” program March 23, obliterating the previous record set last fall.

Numerous folks came to the Bath County Courthouse to turn in their unused, unwanted or out-of-date medications, which were then fed to Operation UNITE’s “Pill Dragon,” a mobile incinerator sponsored by UNITE, Eastern Kentucky PRIDE and the Kentucky Army National Guard.

This was the 20th Pill Dragon event to be conducted since its debut last August with a total of 355,072 pills having been disposed of safely. The previous single-day take-back program high was 46,806 pills in Magoffin County.

“This is an amazing accomplishment,” noted Karen Kelly, director of UNITE. “The Bath County UNITE Coalition did a super job getting the word out. This turnout is especially notable because Bath County is one of the least populated counties in the commonwealth.”

According to the 2010 Census, Bath County’s population is just 11,591 residents – the sixth smallest among the 29 counties in Kentucky’s Fifth Congressional District and 93rd of Kentucky’s 120 counties. That means nearly five pills were brought in for every citizen.

“This is important for two reasons,” Kelly said. “First, it reduces your risk of being a victim of a burglary or theft and, second, it avoids the potential health and environmental effects of having these substances in our water system and soil if they are flushed down the toilet or tossed in a landfill.”

Some studies have shown that 90 percent of teens that try prescription drugs for the first time turn to the family medicine cabinet or to a friend’s family for prescription and over-the-counter medications – making them an Accidental Dealer.

Aside from the fact that taking or giving away medicine that is not prescribed to you is illegal, even at small doses the potential exists for serious health effects – including death. This is especially worrisome in southern and eastern Kentucky, where the average age of first-time use is age 11.

Wednesday’s program, coordinated by coalition volunteer Sheila Enoch, capped a three-month “Accidental Dealer” campaign to raise awareness about the dangers posed by prescription and over-the-counter medications kept in the home.

The campaign included several community presentations, public service announcements, and the showing of the documentary “An Appalachian Dawn.”

Produced by The Sentinel Group, “An Appalachian Dawn” explains how local churches and residents in Clay County united through prayer and a common goal to fight back against drugs and corruption, and how this movement has made a dramatic change to their image.

Anyone wishing to help with anti-drug initiatives in Bath County can contact coalition Chair Greg Collins at 606-674-6747 or gkcollins@windstream.net; UNITE Coalition Coordinator Ashley Shepherd at 606-889-0422 or aakers@centertech.com; or attend the monthly coalition meetings held at 10 a.m. on the first Thursday of each month at the Bath County Board of Education Annex Building, 405 West Main Street in Owingsville.