NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (WWLP) – Members of the public threw away expired prescriptions at VA Central Western Mass Healthcare System on Friday.

According to a news release sent from VA Central Western Mass Healthcare System, VA is aligning with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and welcomes non-Veterans to its health facilities across the nation for safe and secure drug disposal on different dates throughout the year. They held their VA Take Back Day on Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

“I’ll just ask the veteran if they’re interested in getting rid of some of the medications that they have at home,” said Officer Pablo Chaverri.

Veterans at the VA will receive an envelope that they can take home and fill with their unwanted prescription drugs and send it right to the DEA.

“Make sure you’re clearing out those medicine cabinets. It’s really important to not have medications around the house if they’re not being used. Also it’s a good way to get rid of expired medication,” said Public Affairs Officer Sarah Robinson.

“We are pleased to welcome non-Veteran members of our community to VA CWM, Leeds, for our first-ever public VA Take Back Day. I encourage people to dispose of old and unused prescriptions in this safe and secure manner,” said Mr. Duane Gill Medical Center Director. “It’s important for each of us to clean out our medicine cabinets regularly and to dispose of medications to protect ourselves, our loved ones, and our environment.”

This event is the result of legislation signed into law by President Biden on July 29, 2021. The Dispose of Unused Medications and Prescription (DUMP) Opioids Act requires VA to establish designated times when Veterans and non-Veterans can dispose of opioids and other controlled substance medications at VA facilities. A covered facility is a VA medical facility with a pharmacy and/or a physical location dedicated to law enforcement purposes.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 107,000 people died from drug poisoning last year in the United States. That’s the equivalent of a person dying every five minutes. The Mental Health Services Administration reports the majority of people who have misused prescription medication got it from a family member or friend.

“There’s been studies done where they’ve found samples of prescription medication within the water system,” said Chaverri. “Talk to your local police department and they will definitely have options for you to help you get rid of your medications.”

Those who can’t participate in VA Take Back Days can use DEA’s Public Disposal Locations Search Tool to find year-round collection sites. DEA holds two Take Back Days, on the last Saturday in the months of April and October.