Watauga County first to collect one million pills in Operation Medicine Cabinet


Chelsey Fisher

Watauga County collected a total of one million pills for this year's Operation Medicine Cabinet. Photo illustration by Maggie CozensWatauga County’s Operation Medicine Cabinet reached a total of one million pills collected after their latest pill take back event.

The number of pills collected has made Watauga County’s Operation Medicine Cabinet the best in the state, outperforming Raleigh, Charlotte and Asheville, according to a press release from Operation Medicine Cabinet.

Operation Medicine Cabinet was started in 2009 to try and reduce the amount of unwanted drugs going into the water supply and staying in homes. Pill take back events have been held every May and October to coincide with the county’s household hazardous waste day, according to the press release.

Of the 95,731 pills collected in the county in the most recent collection, 8,883 pills were collected on campus in Plemmons Student Union, Watauga Riverkeeper Donna Lisenby said.

“That is a record breaker nationwide,” Director of Communications and Outreach in the Sustainability Department Crystal Simmons said. “No other collection, to date, combined, has collected that many pills,” Simmons said.

This achievement means that Watauga County has “one of the best programs in the state,” Lisenby said.

Since 2010, Operation Medicine Cabinet in Watauga County has been recognized as model for other communities who have decided to create their own pill take back organizations, according to the press release.

The ASU Police was involved in the collection due to DEA requirements for law enforcement “to be the responsible agency for collecting and turning the drugs over to them,” Police Chief Gunther Doerr said.

Doerr said the record-breaking number of pills collected is a “wonderful success story.”

Operation medicine cabinet is a “great program,” Doerr said.

“Not only does it help keep the environment and water supply cleaner it also reduces the risk of someone misusing an old prescription that has been sitting in someone medicine cabinet for years,” Doerr said.

Story: STEPHANIE SANSOUCY, Senior News Reporter

Photo Illustration: MAGGIE COZENS, Photo Editor