National Prescription Drug Take Back Day went ahead Saturday as planned in the Ohio Valley, despite the fact that $50,000 worth of drugs were stolen from a local pharmacy Friday.
Hosted nationally by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the take-back event was held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at a number of locations. The goal of the day is to give people a chance to dispose of accumulated unwanted, unused prescription drugs for safe disposal.
Several locations across the Ohio Valley accepted unwanted drugs from the public, and each site was manned by local law enforcement.
At the House of the Carpenter on Wheeling Island, Wheeling police Detective Brandi Alderman was accompanied by volunteer Stephanie Stewart and Ohio County Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition program director Lori Garrett-Bumba. The coalition teamed up with the Wheeling Police Department to take back drugs from Ohio county residents.
Alderman said she did not believe the Friday thefts from the Elm Grove Pharmacy - which also was scheduled to serve as a take-back site - had discouraged the Saturday effort or made it more dangerous.
"It doesn't hurt the take-back, but it does raise awareness," Alderman said, noting the presence of a police officer is required at a tale-back site. "I am here to take care of security and to take control of substances that people turn in."
"We feel that it is a good program to help get drugs off the streets," Garrett-Bumba said.
Police are searching for two white men who broke into the Elm Grove Pharmacy on Friday morning. The suspects used bolt cutters to sever the electrical lines on the building's exterior sometime between 3:15 and 3:30 a.m. before kicking in the door and spending up to an hour in the store searching for prescription narcotics before fleeing the scene.
Wheeling Deputy Police Chief Martin Kimball said Saturday that there had been no further developments in the case, which marks the second time in four months that the pharmacy has been targeted.
On May 25, Kevin Lee Walnoha, 37, of Wellsburg entered the pharmacy with the intent of robbing the business. When he brandished a weapon and demanded prescription pills, an employee produced a gun and fatally shot Walnoha. An alleged co-conspirator, Melody Fisher, 40, of Beech Bottom was later apprehended and charged in connection with Walnoha's death.
Days prior to that fatal encounter, the Rite Aid pharmacy in Warwood was robbed at gunpoint by a masked suspect. That man made off with around 3,500 prescription pills.
Marshall County also had a number of take-back locations Saturday, all watched over by law enforcement officers.
At the CVS pharmacy in Moundsville, Police Chief Tom Mitchell reported his collection basket was not as full as in past years.
"We did a lot better last time, I think because advertising was a lot better last year," said Mitchell, noting that he offers to take back prescription drugs at the police station year round. "I collect it all the time. I have a whole pile in the evidence room."
He added that people can feel free to bring their unwanted substances to the station anytime.
"We do have a drop box year-round to keep drugs out of our environment and off our streets," Mitchell said, who was assisted by Tyler Poliquin of the Marshall County Family Resource Network.
Meanwhile, West Virginia State Police troopers in Moundsville had a successful day. By early afternoon, they had already filled their collection basket and received two more dropoffs after that.
But the Marshall County Sheriff's Department had seen only one person bring in a small bag of prescription drugs as of 1 p.m. According to Deputy Randy Vogler, the sheriff's department had little advance knowledge of the event.