CAP Community Prevention Specialist Kelly Miloski with CAP Coalition youth volunteer Kenny Rothwell and some of the medications collected on the drug take-back day in May 2015 . Also pictured (rear) CAP executive director Felicia Scocozza and Riverhead Police Chief David Hegermiller.
File photo: Denise Civiletti

Riverhead Police collected 102 pounds of prescription and over-the-counter medications Saturday at the first annual Drug Take-Back Drive-Through Event. This brings the total number of drugs collected to 502 pounds since a permanent drop box was installed at police headquarters in August, according to Officer Rick Anderson, who is in charge of property and evidence and maintains the collection log. The Riverhead Community Coalition for Safe and Drug-Free Youth coordinated the event and provided giveaways for participants.

“This was a very successful take-back event in spite of the foul weather,” said Officer Anderson after weighing the drugs. “It also helped raise awareness about the permanent drug drop box located in the lobby of the police department.”

In spite of an ongoing public awareness campaign, many residents are still unaware that there is a permanent drop box available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, he said. At today’s event, drive-up service was provided for the first time.

Police Officer Daniel Hogan takes a bag of medications from a resident at the drive-up takeback event yesterday morning. Photo: Denise Civiletti
Police Officer Daniel Hogan takes a bag of medications from a resident at the drive-up takeback event yesterday morning.
Photo: Denise Civiletti

“What a great and easy way to help keep our youth safe and combat drug abuse with the added bonus of protecting our environment,” Riverhead Police Chief David Hegermiller said.

State Senator Ken LaValle and Assemblyman Fred Thiele also stopped by to show their support.

“By reducing access to prescription drugs in our community, we have successfully reduced narcotics abuse among 12th grade students from 7.5 percent in 2008 to 2.1 percent in 2014,” according to Felicia Scocozza, executive director of Riverhead Community Awareness Program.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, prescription drug abuse is the fastest-growing drug problem in the United States, especially among teens; more people die from prescription drug overdoses than from all illegal drugs combined. In fact, prescription drug deaths are now the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S., outnumbering highway traffic fatalities.

Riverhead Police Officer Rick Anderson weighing and packaging 102 pounds of drugs collected at the Take-Back Drive-Through Event.
Riverhead Police Officer Rick Anderson weighing and packaging 102 pounds of drugs collected at the Take-Back Drive-Through Event. Courtesy photo: Felicia Scocozza

The CDC reports that one in five teens have taken prescription drugs without a doctor’s prescription and each day more than 2,000 teens use prescription drugs to get high for the first time. Teens now abuse prescription drugs more than cocaine, heroin, ecstasy and methamphetamine combined, according to the CDC. This may be because they don’t see this behavior as risky since medicine is created and tested in a scientific environment, prescribed by doctors, and used by their parents. In most cases prescription medication is easier to obtain than street drugs; the majority of teens get them from family members, friends or in the home. Teens that become addicted to prescription drugs are likely to turn to heroin which is much cheaper to buy on the street.

The Riverhead Community Coalition for Safe and Drug-Free Youth is funded by the White House Office of Drug Control Policy. Its mission is to engage collaborative partners in the planning, implementation and evaluation of strategies that prevent youth substance use. For more information about the coalition, or to participate, please call Kelly Miloski, Riverhead CAP’s community prevention specialist, at 727-3722.

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Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.