New Canaan Police Sgt. Carol Ogrinc and Jeff Holland spoke to more than 30 youth officials at New Canaan High School Tuesday during a Networking for Youth seminar about the success of the medication lockbox program.

The program started June 1, 2011, after the Drug Enforcement Agency sponsored an event in town where residents could drop off unused medication at the police station for proper disposal.

Ogrinc said the amount of people who participated displayed a need for a box program year-round instead of asking people to wait for events twice a year.

"We did collect 274 pounds of drugs in a four-hour period that day," Ogrinc said, referring to a drop-off event at Saxe Middle School in 2009. "That gave us kind of a boost that this was going to be something successful in our town."

The box is in the front lobby of the New Canaan Police Department at 174 South Ave. Disposal instructions are posted on the front of the box.

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Fact box

All medications can be disposed of safely and confidentially.

No personal information is collected. Once the container is full, the contents are weighed and then properly disposed of by incineration.

Director of youth services Tony Phillips also said the initial drop off events were very expensive.

"The actual cost to run that one-time event at Saxe was thousands and thousands of dollars, beyond the volunteer time," Phillips said.

The cost of the box itself is around $600.

Holland started the program after organizing and participating in the annual Drug Enforcement Agency medication collection program for two years.

He then traveled to Hartford with State Rep. John Hetherington where they met with John Gadea of the Department of Consumer Protection. In the development of this program, Holland researched and drafted the template for the "Medication Collection/Disposal Pilot Program Policy" that each participating police department has adopted.

New Canaan is the lead town working with Ingrid Gillespie from the Lower Fairfield Regional Action Plan.

Through Gillespie's efforts, Greenwich, Wilton and Ridgefield also participate in this first-of-its-kind regional pilot program and have set up similar drop boxes at their police departments.

"Ingrid Gillespie was another instrumental person in this," Ogrinc said. "She really oversaw everything."

The main goal of the disposal program is two-fold according to Holland and Ogrinc. The primary concern is to get the unused drugs out of households to prevent accidental or intentional abuse.

The second is to ensure the medication is disposed of in a manner that is safe for the environment. For a long time, the DEAasked people to flush medication, but that is no longer allowed.

"They were finding trace amounts of pharmaceuticals in ground water," Holland said. "And they were unsure if it was better testing methods or why this was happening. But the suspicion was a lot of it was because of flushing medications because that's what we were always told to do. So they changed their guidelines and said don't flush these medications anymore but really did not list a lot of other good options (for disposal). Programs like this are in response to that. At the same time pharmaceutical drug abuse was increasing at exponential rates."

Since the box has been installed, more than 218 pounds of pills have been collected and disposed.

203-972-4413; pjha@bcnnew.com; www.twitter.com/pjhancnews