Philanthropy Ensures Safe Drug Disposal, Safer Communities

What can you do with prescription drugs that are no longer needed? Keeping them around can lead to abuse or accidental poisoning—or make you a target for theft. And though the Food and Drug Administration also allows certain medications to be flushed, doing so with others can contaminate the public water supply. 

Now, thanks to philanthropy programs, two more Indiana University Health hospitals will ensure medications are properly and safely dealt with. Drop boxes at IU Health Arnett and IU Health Frankfort hospitals are safe places where individuals can dispose of prescribed and over-the-counter pills and ointments.

Funding for the drug take-back program at IU Health Arnett was provided by the IU Health Foundation, through the Area of Greatest Need fund for that hospital, and funding for the IU Health Frankfort program was provided by the Clinton County Community Foundation. The grants awarded to both hospitals provide installation and monitoring of the boxes, which are located near the hospitals’ pharmacies and will be accessible to the public during pharmacy business hours. The hospitals will underwrite continuing costs.

Such programs can play a vital role in stemming the opioid crisis plaguing the state of Indiana. “Studies show that many people take their first opiate as a recreational thing. It’s not theirs; it’s something they’ve found in somebody’s medicine cabinet,” said Tricia Lohr, pharmacy manager at IU Health Frankfort. “If someone had a legitimate opiate prescription, after a surgery or something similar, it’s best to get rid of leftover drugs to prevent other people from somehow getting to them.”

Sarah Kennedy, outpatient pharmacy manager at IU Health Arnett, said philanthropy is key to funding extras like drug take-back programs in a hospital setting. “When you open up these programs to the community, it costs money,” she said. “This gives us a chance to reach members of the community we wouldn’t have had the opportunity to, and it makes people aware that these services are out there.” She added that some people might be more comfortable taking medications to a hospital than to a law enforcement agency.

There are a few restrictions to keep in mind when utilizing the boxes. Needles and liquids are not accepted in any form. And, while the boxes won’t be manned by an employee, they will be monitored by both nearby staff and security cameras. “Legally, we cannot touch what a person brings in,” said Kennedy. “And we don’t ask questions.” Kennedy noted that the boxes’ contents are sent to drug destruction services.

In addition to the new locations, the IU Health hospitals that have drug take-back boxes are IU Health Ball Memorial, IU Health Bloomington, IU Health Methodist, IU Health North, IU Health Saxony, IU Health University and IU Health West hospitals. To donate to programs like this one, or your chosen hospital’s Area of Greatest Need, visit