LUSK – Eva Titchener teaches a class at Niobrara County High School called the Service Learning class. The class focuses on helping students have a positive impact on their community by solving a problem or providing a service using their school/academic skills.
While enrollment in this calss is down in recent semesters that doesn’t lessen the impact of the class on the students that take it or the community. This was demonstrated by a recent project conducted by her students. Marina Emerson and Deanna West researched, coordinated and carried out a “Take Back Drug” Day for the Niobrara community. They worked with local law enforcement, Deckers Market (bag fliers) and the Senior Center to get the word out about the initiative and to host collection sites. Then, on December 3rd, they worked with Chief of Police Bo Krein to collect prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs in both liquid and pill form.
The take back drug drive was a way for community members to bring in unused, unknown or expired prescriptions to be disposed of safely and properly. Oftentimes individuals flush, rinse down drains or simply throw away old prescriptions. This contaminates the groundwater supply and can harm both animals and people. Keeping the prescriptions is not a safe option either. Maintaining prescription drugs that have high street value can place individuals at risk for robbery. Drugs that are short-term use prescription or stronger OTC drugs can lead to overdose for children that may find them, individuals that are improperly using them recreationally, or even those that they were prescribed to but no longer need them and accidentally take them after confusing the expired drug with a current prescription.
During the event individuals could drop of any prescription or OTC medication. Liquids, pills and even some nebulizers and liquid drugs were collected. At this time sharps and needles could not be collected. These were collected with no questions asked regarding ownership or acquisition.
The take back drug drive was more successful than Marina or Deanna anticipated, resulting in just less than 35 pounds of substances being collected. Chief Krein was happy to see many of the items that were collected because they have high street value and are extremely dangerous. Knowing those are no longer available for improper use made the drug drive a success in the eyes of law enforcement as well.
School skills that Marina and Deanna felt they utilized and expanded included researching and presenting those findings, communication and interviewing skills as well as organization and analysis of data. They were surprised to find a general lack of knowledge among both peers and community members regarding the dangers of expired or unused prescriptions. They felt many among their peers simply didn’t take the issue seriously and hope that the educational component of the product helped many in the community understand the problems of improperly disposed of drugs or allowing unused prescriptions to accumulate in a household. The police department is hoping to host another collection day on the state and national “Take Back Drug” days in 2019 following this well-received initiative. In addition to educating the community and conducting a successful drive, Marina and Deanna will be presenting this project at the state FCCLA conference hoping to secure a spot to nationals.