Making a difference one pill at a time

Local law enforcement and SATUCI tackling Rx drug abuse

The prescription drop box located in the lobby of the Marshall County Sheriff’s Offic resembles a mailbox, and offers residents the opportunity to dispose of unused medications in a secure and environmentally responsible fashion 24/7. It is an anonymous service and contact with law enforcement or office personnel is not required.

Credit the Marshalltown Police Department, Marshall County Sheriff’s Office, the Mid-Iowa Drug Task Force and the Substance Abuse Treatment Unit of Central Iowa for taking proactive measures to combat prescription drug abuse.

Nationally, the problem has reached epidemic proportions, with casual and regular abusers ingesting unused and past-due prescription medications — sometimes prescribed to family members — to get high, or to sell on the black market.

Unfortunately, this abuse can result in injury, death, or lead the abuser down a more destructive path of heroin addiction.

Consequently area law enforcement, in partnership with SATUCI, have been working in partnership three and one-half years to reduce the temptation by encouraging Central Iowans to remove their unused medications from cupboards, medicine cabinets and elsewhere and dropping them off at prescription drug drop-off boxes. There are two in Marshall County — both conveniently located and open like mailboxes for easy disposal. One is in the lobby of MPD Headquarters, 22 N. Center St., and a second in the lobby of the Marshall County Sheriff’s Administrative Office/Jail, 2369 Jessup Ave. Contact with civilian or police personnel is not required at both locations.


A prescription medicine drop box installed at MPD in August 2014, is a major success.

The MIDTF, in partnership with the MPD, installed the box as a safe, anonymous way for residents to dispose of unused, unwanted or expired drugs 24/7/365.

It was installed at the MPD due to its central location in Marshall County.

James Gibson of the MIDTF previously told the Times-Republican the box would prove to be an extremely valuable resource.

His foresight was 20/20.

Gibson reported to the T-R recently, “that 1,058 pounds of prescription medications and other products, like vitamins, have been removed from the MPD drug box since its installation. Our main focus is keeping them (prescription drugs) away from kids. A lot of kids these days, if they get drugs, it’s from a family member’s or friend’s medicine cabinet. We would like parents, grandparents and others to go through and see if they have medications they aren’t using. If they have them, bring them to the MPD of MCSO box and we’ll get rid of them in a safe way.”

The box is checked daily and contents collected and prepared for disposal that is eco-friendly and in accordance with federal and state law.

“The box is used a lot,” said Capt. Mike Hanken of the MPD. “It has proven to be an asset in combatting prescription drug abuse.”

Residents who wish to use the box must remove labels from prescription bottles before disposal to help protect the identity and personal health information of the prescription holder, Gibson said.

Bottle caps must be secured. Needles, liquid, biohazard items and trash are not allowed.

In 2014, the Mid-Iowa Drug Task Force applied for and received a grant from the National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators to acquire the box.

“That program was funded through Endo Pharmaceuticals, a grant that addresses vital public health and safety issues by preventing the misuse of prescription drugs,” said Gibson.

Questions regarding the prescription drug drop box can be directed to the MIDTF at 641-754-6392.


Marshall County Sheriff Steve Hoffman and staff were optimistic a prescription medicine drop box installed nearly one year ago would be success.

Their optimism has been rewarded

“Our drop-off box has collected 9,395 grams, or approximately 20 pounds of medication since installed,” said Hoffman.

The MIDTG also partnered with the MCSO to install the box.

“We installed it to give rural residents a place to safely dispose of unwanted prescription medications,” said Hoffman. “Many people become addicted to prescription drugs because they started using a family member’s leftover prescription prescriptions, so cleaning out a medicine cabinet can save lives. Once addicted, some of these individuals may then move to heroin to fulfill that addiction.”

Residents must remove labels from prescription bottles before disposal to help protect the identity and personal health information of the prescription holder.

Bottle caps must be secured. Needles, liquid, biohazard items and trash are not allowed.


Since 1980, SATUCI has endeavored to work in partnership with local law enforcement in offering intervention services to those suffering from substance abuse issues.

SATUCI is a not-for-profit, state-funded, community based agency which has provided substance abuse prevention and treatment services to Hardin, Marshall, Tama and Poweshiek residents. It is headquartered in Marshalltown.

To help promote the prescription drop-off boxes, SATUCI recently placed ads on the sides of city buses.

“I think it is too early to tell if our bus advertising is making an impact,” SATUCI Executive Director Vicki Lewis told the T-R earlier this month. “We are monitoring it. We know how much is going in when we started the ad campaign. and will work to increase use of the boxes over time, that is our benchmark of progress. SATUCI has done a variety of things in (previous years) to promote awareness … the bus signs are one and we have used billboards in the past in English and Spanish.

Lewis said the bus ad campaign and other initiatives are part of a more comprehensive plan.

“It part of a bigger picture with our opioid grant with the Iowa Department of Public Health. When we did our community needs assessment, one of the factors that appeared to be contributing to abuse is some people have opioids just sitting in their cupboards along with other drugs. Consequently, we want to develop more public awareness in partnership with law enforcement for better utilization.”

Anyone seeking help or advice regarding substance abuse issues, should contact SATUCI at 641-752-5421. For more information about heroin and opioid dependency treatment options in Iowa, visit IDPH Medication Assisted Treatment website at idph. iowa,gov/mat


Contact Mike Donahey at 641-753-6611 or