A disposal box for unwanted and expired pharmaceuticals now is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week at the Mt. Lebanon Public Safety Center.
The newly formed SAFE (Stop Addiction for Everyone) Lebo group, which addresses abuse of prescription and street drugs in the community, spearheaded efforts to put the receptacle in place.
A panel discussion Wednesday at the public safety center talked about the problems associated with unauthorized use of prescription drugs, which has reached epidemic proportions, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Lilly Brindle, outreach specialist with Gateway Rehabilitation Center, said that because health care professionals prescribe certain medications, some get the impression that they are safe.
"Prescription drugs are very potent and they can be deadly," she said, explaining that users build tolerance and, once the source of the prescriptions is eliminated, they look for alternatives.
"This is what turns a lot of the people to the streets," said Ms. Brindle, and illegal drugs often become available as a less-expensive way of satisfying addiction.
"The person who said they'd never do street drugs is now doing heroin," she said.
Mt. Lebanon police Chief Coleman McDonough noted the impact that drug abuse has on crime in the municipality, especially theft of items that can be sold quickly. Police also respond frequently to drug-related incidents such as domestic disputes, overdoses and suicide attempts.
He urged residents to participate in the department's Tip 411 program, by which information can be provided anonymously.
Todd Pritchard, operations director for Medical Rescue Team South Authority, encouraged members of the community to use the disposal box as a way of preventing accidental overdoses, especially among children.
SAFE Lebo came about largely through the work of Mt. Lebanon Commissioner Kelly Fraasch and school Director Jo Posti, who started discussing community issues early in the year as liaisons to their respective boards. They quickly determined that drug abuse is a problem that requires particular attention.
Ms. Posti is external affairs specialist with Pennsylvania American Water, the parent company of which sponsors pharmaceutical disposal initiatives to help keep substances out of the water supply.
Pennsylvania American is among the participating organizations for SAFE Lebo. Others include Mt. Lebanon municipality, school district, police department and Council of PTAs, along with MRTSA and St. Clair Hospital.
SAFE Lebo also promotes resources that are available for families and individuals who are struggling with drug addiction.
Harry Funk, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.