When Boaz Assistant Police Chief Walter Colbert oversaw the installation of the city’s first medication drop off box last week, he didn’t believe it would be the definitive answer to stopping the area’s rising drug crisis.
But it will help — whether one person or 1,000, he said.
“It’s a nationwide problem, you know,” Colbert said. “And I don’t know what the answer to it is. I know there’s a lot of places that over-prescribe — what we’re doing is a little tip of the iceberg, but I’ve always been one that whatever you can do to help, you need to try to do it. You never know when some lady may come up here, dump her medicine in the box and it prevented somebody that was abusing drugs or just wanting to try it from getting it, or even a small child that could’ve got it and been poisoned.”
During the interview process for his current position, Colbert and other candidates were tasked by Boaz Police Chief Josh Gaskin to present different ways the department could address the growing drug problem in Boaz and across Sand Mountain.
Colbert said he pitched several ideas, but it was the one his wife helped him create that stuck first — a safe location to drop off unused prescription pills for proper disposal.
After he took the role of assistant chief, Colbert put the plan into action.
The original vision was to be cost-effective and use an old mailbox, but after making several calls around town, he had no luck. Then he thought, “why not just have one made?”
“I just started googling and found a company up north,” Colbert said. “I called them and the guy sent me a quote, and it was about $1,900. And I thought, ‘Dang.’”
After his research, he pitched the idea again to Gaskin and requested the $1,900 be factored in the new year’s budget. But, before they ever made it that far, local legislators stepped in to help.
“Before that was even discussed, I went ahead and wrote a letter to the legislature, because I saw an article The Reporter did a while back on the opioid problem and how they were concerned about it, so I thought, ‘well, I’m going to pitch it to them’ because they’ve got a little money they can give out every now and then … and then a couple months later, their secretary called me and told me they decided to fund the project.”
Since the department received assistance, Colbert said the $1,900 could now go toward something else to benefit the department.
The drop box, located outside the department at 101 Line Ave., is now available for everyone to utilize. Items can be dropped off at any time, but Colbert requested people be mindful of what items are not permitted, which includes needles, inhalers, aerosol cans, thermometers, lotions, liquids and hydrogen peroxide.
Once a sizable amount of items are received, Colbert said they would be incinerated.
Having the drop box not only helps fight drug abuse, but it also helps people dispose of it correctly. People often believe flushing their medications is OK, but Colbert said it’s not.
“It keeps it out of the water,” he said. “They say if you flush them, it gets in the ground water and you find very small traces of it in the water supply.”
By simply throwing it away, people can scavenge through the trash and find it.
“I mean, I know it’s not going to make a whole bunch of a difference, but if it makes a difference for one person, to me it’s worth it,” Colbert said.