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Drug collections continue to rise
AG, sheriff credit awareness campaign
Opioid Crisis
Monroe Police Chief Fred Kelley, Green County District Attorney Craig Nolen, Green County Sheriff Mark Rohloff and Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel hold a press conference about the opioid crisis at the Green County Sheriff’s Department Oct. 24. - photo by Marissa Weiher

MONROE — In an address at the Green County Sheriff’s Office on Wednesday, state Attorney General Brad Schimel credited the awareness campaign for an upward trend in the collection of prescription drugs within the county.

“We’re working to make it so there are no excuses; that it’s as easy as possible to get these drugs out of your home,” he said.

Sheriff Mark Rohloff said since 2014, when a group of nine Green County Leaders worked to install a drug drop box in the lobby of the jail, Green County residents have turned thousands of pounds of prescription medications over to authorities.

“I think accessibility has a lot to do with that, and with the collection boxes it gives the public 24/7 availability for disposal rather than just a simple date two times a year,” Rohloff said.

Schimel agreed, adding they had not anticipated when the state began its efforts to take back medication as a means of preventing abuse of the drugs that the numbers would continue to climb on a statewide level.

Now, Green County has seven drop-off points residents can use throughout the year. There are two official Drug Take Back Day events scheduled by the state campaign “Dose of Reality” in the fall and spring each year. For Green County, that fall event is today.

While at first, there was only one box set up at the sheriff’s department, leaders offered later in the year to expand the program to the five local police departments within the county. In its initial year, the box campaign brought in 270 pounds of prescription drugs. In 2015, the number jumped. The sheriff’s department collected nearly 500 pounds of medications and collections throughout the county at local departments and the coroner’s office brought in over 250 pounds of drugs.

Last year, the county saw its largest number of prescription collections yet, with over 886 pounds of medications collected. 

Proper disposal

There is more than one way to properly dispose of unused medications. According to, drugs can be dropped off at the following area locations:

●  Albany Village Hall/Police Department, 206 N. Water St.

●  Argyle EMS, 104 N. Broad St.

●  Belleville Police Department, 31 E. Main St.

●  Brodhead Police Department, 1004 W. Exchange St.

●  Darlington Municipal Building: 627 Main St.

●  Evansville Police Department, 10 W. Church St.

●  Green County Sheriff’s Office, 2827 6th St.

●  Monroe Police Department, 1811 12th St.

●  Monticello Police Department, 140 N. Main St.

●  New Glarus Village Hall, 319 2nd St.

Medication deactivation kits are also available free of charge at the Green County Public Health office by calling 328-9390 from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. The kits contain activated carbon that renders medication ineffective when mixed with water, allowing people to safely dispose of the drugs in their own trash. The state Drug Enforcement Administration has a mail-back program for unused medications. Users can buy mail-back packages from local pharmacies, doctors or police stations with unique ID numbers and pre-paid postage attached.

Rohloff said in the spring, law enforcement counted 393 pounds during its take back day. He added that the fall collection will likely match, if not exceed, that amount. Anyone looking to safely dispose of old prescriptions can use the Dose of Reality website to find their nearest location with the help of an interactive map. 

Schimel said the drug collection program is one of the ways in which the state has tried to combat a growing epidemic of drug abuse and overdoses. 

“We’ve all seen this epidemic growing over years,” Schimel said. “We realized this was much bigger than a typical drug epidemic. We knew we had to do things differently because this is a public health crisis.”

Enforcement was coupled with treatment, he noted. Drug courts, which vary from traditional law enforcement because of a planned method of rehabilitation, became more prevalent. Schimel said in 2014, there were 29 counties with the program. Now, there are 51, including two tribal communities, he said. Green County has been utilizing a drug court for just over a year. Lafayette County officials have said they want to try to put one in place in the near future.

Changes in laws now allow police officers to contact physicians if their names are found on a prescription bottle at the scene of an overdose to inform the doctors that prescriptions they are giving out are being misused. 

Schimel said the treatment efforts are a “better investment” than continuing to enforce laws without treating underlying issues. The programs come at a cost of less than $3,000 per year, while the expense of an inmate is over $3,000 annually, and the cost of dealing with an overdose greatly exceeds that number.

“This is the right thing to do and we’re doing it so well,” Schimel said. 

He noted that 80 percent of those addicted to heroin will acknowledge they began by taking prescription painkillers and 70 percent got those medications because others shared pills or they were stolen from medicine cabinets of people close to them.

Schimel said Wisconsin has the third highest amount of drug collections, behind California and Texas.

“It’s important to the environment, and I think that would make it worth it alone, but we know it’s more important than that even, because we know there’s a direct path between the drugs in our medicine cabinets and the drugs that are causing overdoses in our communities,” Schimel said. 

However, he noted there were more steps to take. 

Monroe Police Chief Fred Kelley said over the course of a year, roughly three years ago, area residents noticed home burglaries in which nothing appeared to be taken. Later, they realized prescription bottles were missing.

Kelley said auxiliary crimes are common with drug abuse. Schimel said increases in crime were another reason the prevention programs are important and that people should be vigilant in removing unused pills from their homes. 

“Theft, identity theft, burglary, robbery, human trafficking all are up and we’re all finding that the increases are being driven by this drug epidemic,” Schimel said. “Lock them up. Treat them like a loaded gun. These prescriptions are killing more people in Wisconsin than guns.”