A new prescription drug take-back box was installed this week at the Baton Rouge Police Department headquarters, in a push to climb the city out of an opioid abuse epidemic.
“This box will create a safe and secure spot for people to bring their medication, rather than having it in their house,” said Attorney General Jeff Landry, who introduced the box at a press conference Tuesday, with officials from Blue Cross Blue Shield and the National Association of Drug Diversion Investigations.
The installation comes as Baton Rouge ranks 17th nationally in opioid prescription abuse. There are 118 prescriptions per 100 Louisiana residents.
“This epidemic is killing people irrespective of their race, their religion, their economic or social background,” Landry said.
The box is the third of its kind in East Baton Rouge Parish. Police in Zachary and at Southern University have installed ones at their headquarters. Interim Baton Rouge police chief Jonny Dunnam said prescription drug drop-offs will be anonymous.
“Our evidence divisions will come down weekly, if not more often,” said Dunnam “They will take possession of it, along with our internal affairs division, and eventually those prescription medications will be destroyed.”
Prescription drug drop-off boxes are also available in Assumption, Livingston, Pointe Coupee, St. James and Tangipahoa parishes. (A full list is available at EndTheEpidemicLA.org.) Landry hopes to have at least one in each parish, though his timeline for that remains unclear.
“It can never be soon enough, right?” he said.
The attorney general claimed Gov. John Bel Edwards’ decision last year to expand Medicaid has furthered opioid abuse in Louisiana. Before expansion, Landry said Medicaid covered roughly 500,000 prescriptions, compared to some 900,000 covered today.
“When we put a program in place that automatically doubles that amount of free prescriptions available to people, it’s literally like putting drugs on the street for free.”
State health officials say that since Louisiana expanded Medicaid, more than 13,000 people have received treatment for substance abuse.
The attorney general told BRProud.com he is still seeking control of a lawsuit filed by Gov. Edwards accusing opioid manufacturers of worsening the epidemic. Landry argues the suit should expand to note increased costs to the state’s criminal justice system and social services. His office estimates that opioid abuse costs the state $160 million each year.
“It’s about holding parties accountable beyond the healthcare field,” said Landry. “It’s important that the Office of the Attorney General takes the lead in this case, as the state’s chief legal officer.”
Edwards’ aides say that while the governor agrees with bringing more agencies into the lawsuit, the state’s chief executive and its chief attorney have yet to resolve the power struggle.