In the pouring rain, Joyce SantaMaria quickly walked up to the Fourth Precinct station house in Smithtown, carrying an oversized zip-top plastic bag holding thousands of prescription pills. She handed them over to police yesterday in Suffolk County's first Operation Medicine Cabinet.
All of Suffolk County's precincts participated in the event, which allowed residents to dispose of expired or unused prescription drugs, opiates or antibiotics in an environmentally safe way. The program was free and anonymous but didn't accept liquids or needles.
"The idea was to take any medicine that may be available to youngsters" who are tempted to get high out of a medicine cabinet, said Capt. William Murphy at the Fourth Precinct in Smithtown. As well as keeping the drugs out of the environment, the program will properly dispose of them.
Two years ago, SantaMaria, 67, of Massapequa Park, a registered nurse who owns a karate school in Smithtown, gathered up all the medications in her house but couldn't get rid of them. "I went over to local emergency rooms, I went to the local drugstores and nobody would take the pills."
After she heard about the program, she sent out a note to all her karate students to bring in pills yesterday morning so she could drop them off.
"We cannot dump this stuff in the ground or water. You can't dispose of it in the garbage. Then what do you do with it? People have tons of stuff in their closets," she said.
The program is important because it will "reduce incidents of possible accidental ingestion, a person that shouldn't have that medication, and dispose of them correctly," said Lt. Michael Montoavo at the Second Precinct in Huntington.
"It's a good thing, because you don't know how to dispose of them. It's great. I'm glad they have this. It saves a lot of problems."