By SHERIDAN CYR
The Southington Town-wide Effort to Promote Success (STEPS) Youth Council kicked off a campaign on April 1 to spread awareness for proper disposal of unwanted, unused, and expired prescription medications. The campaign alerts residents about the official medications drop box located at the Southington Police Department headquarters on Lazy Lane.
The drop box is intended for locals to come in and anonymously, discreetly and easily dispose of medications properly. The campaign stems from the growing abuse of opioids, and youth councilors say disposing of the unused medications can prevent someone else from getting a hold of the pills.
The campaign, called “What are you saving them for?” was an idea created by a small group of youth councilors who knew there was a problem and wanted to be a part of the solution.
“The goal is to limit the amount of prescription drug abuse in our community,” said youth council member Margaret Miller, a student at John F. Kennedy Middle School. “This is important to me because when I am older, I think I will stay in Southington, and I want my own family to have a safe place to live. We all want to make a safer community.”
Miller said the campaign will work in two parts. During the first wave, from April 1-15, councilors and helpers will place signs around the community that simply ask, “What are you saving them for?”
During the second wave, from April 15-29, the signs will be replaced with a second sign revealing the drop box information and persuading residents to make use of it. Posters will be made available at the youth services department in the municipal center for businesses and residents to display as part of the campaign.
At a recent Town Council meeting, three youth councilors presented the campaign, with the help of Dr Stephanie Urillo, a dental practitioner, Dental Society of Greater Southington president, and former Town Councilor.
After researching and learning that many people save painkillers prescribed by dentists and doctors, the students had approached Urillo to ask if she would be willing to support the message by adding a short note about the drop box to her email signature for the month of April. Urillo took it a step further and asked the students to come and present their message to the dental society and get them involved, too.
“We strive to promote healthy, safe behavior and strive to educate the youth of our community to make safe, healthy decisions and keep our community drug-free,” said Avery McQuatters. “Our solution is to educate our community on how to properly dispose to prevent risk.”
Jacob Cipriano said the hope is to prevent youth and adults from being put into a position where they have the opportunity to abuse the medication. “We want to make a change in our town by bringing more awareness to the real consequences of not properly disposing, which causes serious effects on youth today,” he said.
Gabe LeBlanc added not only is there a potential threat to a person’s health, but improperly disposing of medication by flushing it or throwing it away can harm the environment, as well.
“There is potential to cause countless dangerous health threats,” LeBlanc said. “Death by overdose is just one of the many.”
Town Councilors thanked the youth council members for their efforts to make Southington a safe place to be.
“In the last few weeks, we have heard the voice of young people, and one of the things we are learning is that our youth have something to say,” said councilor Victoria Triano. “Gabe, Avery and Jacob are here tonight with something to say, and we need to listen to them.”
Chair Chris Palmieri called the campaign “incredibly motivating,” and said the town is fortunate to have a drop box and a partnership with the police department, which is located at 69 Lazy Ln. and open 24 hours a day, seven days per week.
The Youth Services department is located in the municipal center at 196 North Main St.