Westchester County Legislators

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Legislator Shimsky Introduces ‘Drug Take Back Law’ to Help Combat Heroin Epidemic, Protect Environment

MaryJane Shimsky

(WHITE PLAINS, NY) Westchester County residents will have a new way to dispose of unwanted and dangerous prescription medications if a new ‘Prescription Drug Stewardship Program’ law, introduced by Legislator MaryJane Shimsky (D-Hastings-on-Hudson) on Monday April 3rd, passes the Board of Legislators.

The proposal requires pharmacy chains with more than three stores in Westchester County to become locations to dispose of unused medications. This Product Stewardship Program, which has already been made law in Rockland County, is intended to help stem the tide of widespread drug abuse, particularly of opioids, in Westchester County. The bill also aims to help end the practice of dumping unwanted medications down the drain or in the garbage. These disposed pills often find a way into our waterways and landfills, and have serious environmental repercussions.

The new law allows for fines of up to $1,000 to companies failing to comply with this common sense measure.

Westchester County has seen a scourge of prescription drug abuse. In the year 2015 alone, 107 Westchester residents died from overdoses. According to the County Medical Examiner’s report, one family of drug, opioids and opiates which includes heroin, were the cause of 83% of these deaths.

"All too often, the cycle of addiction begins with extra painkillers lying around someone's medicine cabinet. People are often prescribed large quantities of serious drugs to deal with short-term pain,” said Shimsky. “This initial prescription can quickly lead to dependence, which in turn can lead to abuse of leftover pills and escalation to illegal narcotics. Another path to addiction results from extra, unused pain medications ending up in the possession of others -- stolen from medicine cabinets by persons who are already addicted, or by teenagers experimenting with drugs recreationally."  

"This proposal, which increases the number of places where people can return unused drugs, can help reduce the number of unused prescriptions left in people's homes, cutting off a major source of the first pill that gets a victim hooked,” added Shimsky. "And when one adds to the calculus the alarming cocktail of pharmaceuticals contaminating our water, increasing the opportunities for people to safely rid their medicine cabinets of prescription drugs they no longer need is a no-brainer."

The bill requires signage about the program near the retail establishment’s entrance, as well as the creation of hotline and a website for county residents to locate drop-off sites.

“Pharmacies will now be required to do in Westchester what they are legally required to do in Rockland. Sound practices like these can make a difference in preserving our environment and help to save lives,” concluded Shimsky.


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