Officers collect drugs at Walmart, sheriff's office

Align 9 volunteers Kim Kruse, left, and Michelle Gillis, lay out info packets about drug prevention strategies Saturday at Walmart.

Lenoir City police officers and Align 9 volunteers spent Saturday morning outside Walmart for Drug Take Back Day.

Shoppers and community members handed off half-empty prescription drugs as an act of caution. Officers then dropped the containers into a bag filled with hundreds of other pill bottles, which would later be discarded.

The nationwide effort hopes to prevent prescription drugs from getting into the wrong hands. Locally, the prevention method is a coordinated effort through the Drug Enforcement Administration, Tennessee Dangerous Drugs Task Force, Loudon County Sheriff’s Office, Lenoir City Police Department, Align 9, The Prevention Alliance of Loudon County and the 9th Judicial District Drug Task Force.

“It’s nationwide,” Carl Maskew, Knoxville DEA officer, said. “Law enforcement agencies at the state and local levels across the country participate in this with us twice a year. Once in the spring time and once again in the fall. We collect any old drugs, whether they be controlled drugs or legend drugs, and we’ll take them and destroy them in a way that doesn’t harm the environment or water supply or anything else.”

Being proactive in removing drugs from a household could prevent future emergencies.

“It’s important that people don’t leave drugs in their home for other people to get because whether they’re narcotics or any kind of other drug, if it’s not taken care of properly, it can hurt somebody,” Kim Kruse, Volunteer in Service to America for Align 9 in Roane County, said. “You always hear about people breaking into somebody’s homes just for their drugs. We don’t want people flushing them down the drain because it can affect the environment.”

Local police departments always take in old drugs, David Flynn, Lenoir City police officer, said.

“We take them all the time at the police department,” Flynn said. “We’ll just get a few bags here or there, so this just gives everybody an opportunity to bring them to one spot.”

LCSO also participated in Drug Take Back Day at the sheriff’s office.

An hour into Saturday’s effort, Flynn was surprised by the amount of drugs that had been dropped off at the Walmart location.

“We’ve collected quite a bit,” he said. “I don’t exactly know how much, but I’d say we’ve got 10 bags that are probably (full), and we’ve been here an hour. It was a whole lot more than I’d expected, which is good. We’ve been advertising so people can bring them and get rid of them.”

Align 9 works alongside The Prevention Alliance of Loudon County to educate on preventative measures for keeping a distance from drugs. The alliance often partners with local schools and police officers to spread the message.

“Just to raise awareness, basically, that there is a problem with drugs,” Michelle Gillis, Volunteer in Service to America for Align 9 in Loudon County, said. “If it can prevent it and educate the best way that we can and try to prevent it from an early age, that’s a part of Align 9 that we work with also that is aligning the resources and everybody works together. The police department and the schools, the community. It’s a community effort, or it should be.”