Governor Bullock Announces Partnership to Reduce Prescription Drug Abuse -

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Governor Bullock Announces Partnership to Reduce Prescription Drug Abuse

State of Montana, pharmacy associations utilize federal grant to distribute prescription medication collection boxes

Thursday, August 16, 2018/Categories: Former Governors/Tags:

Governor Steve Bullock today announced the State of Montana is utilizing a $730,000 federal grant to help reduce the misuse and abuse of prescription drugs by increasing the number of communities utilizing medication collection boxes.

Governor Bullock and state health officials are working with the Board of Pharmacy and the Montana Pharmacy Association to distribute several hundred metal collection boxes to local pharmacies. 

“One of the best ways to address opioid abuse is through the safe, convenient, and proper disposal of unused medications,” Governor Bullock said. “This is a terrific opportunity and we’re pleased to be partnering with pharmacies across the state to distribute the collection boxes in the coming weeks.”

A total of 212 38-gallon boxes and starter packs of liners are being offered at no cost to retail pharmacies and hospitals and clinics with on-site pharmacies to be used to collect and then dispose of prescription drugs. The funding is part of a grant awarded to the Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS).

DPHHS Director Sheila Hogan said that according to the Journal of the American Medical Association, between 60 and 92% of patients nationwide don’t finish their painkillers, and fewer than 10% dispose of them safely. Sixty percent of patients keep partially completed opioid prescriptions “for later,” while more than 80% don’t store their narcotic painkillers in a locked cabinet.

DPHHS, the Board of Pharmacy and the Montana Pharmacy Association are working quickly to identify pharmacies that are interested in participating.

“We are committed to protecting the health of Montanans,” said pharmacist Tony King of Geneva Woods Pharmacy and a member of the Board of Pharmacy. “We know that prescription drug abuse continues to be a serious issue in Montana, and we are proud to partner with DPHHS on this important project.”

King said the collection boxes will be put to good use by pharmacies as there are currently only 22 of them located in the approximately 360 pharmacies in Montana.

The collection boxes are from MedSafe Medication Disposal Systems with related inner receptacle liners from Sharps Compliance, Inc. The retail purchase price of each box is $3,445.

To be eligible, a pharmacy has to register as a Drug Enforcement Administration collector agent ensuring adherence to the collector guidelines. King said the registration process is very simple and there’s no cost. “I have operated a collection box for two years, and it has been a great success,” he said.

Christine Steele of the DPHHS Addictive and Mental Disorders Division said this will fill an existing need in Montana by providing the collection boxes to the numerous counties that don’t have any, as well as increasing availability where they do exist.

So far, Steele said a total of 21 boxes have been requested. “We are just getting started, and it’s our goal to distribute all 212 of them,” she said.

In 2017, DPHHS worked with 114 individuals representing 82 agencies to release its Addressing Substance Use Disorder in Montana Strategic Plan. The effort created a unified, statewide strategic plan to combat substance misuse and abuse in Montana.

The report states that ‘opioid use is the primary driver of drug overdose deaths in the state of Montana. Forty-four percent of all drug overdose deaths are attributable to opioids.’ Since 2000, more than 700 Montanans have died from opioid overdose.

As Attorney General from 2009-2012, Bullock made tackling prescription drug abuse a priority. He received bipartisan support of the legislature to create the Montana Prescription Drug Registry to provide doctors and pharmacists the tools they need to curb abuse, secured initial funding for prescription drop boxes at local law enforcement offices around the state, and held several statewide collection events. 

For information on how to request a collection box, contact Steele at 406-444-1202 or email at


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