As temperatures dropped in Muncie Thursday afternoon, a group of students braved the cold at the Scramble Light for a good cause.
Around 20 students in the SOCW 430 immersive learning program spent the afternoon partnering with the Addictions Coalition of Delaware County and Student Association for Addressing Addiction to spread awareness about addiction and help Delaware County residents break existing habits. Thursday’s event, which ran from 2-5 p.m., focused on reclaiming unused prescription drugs from community members looking to remove the substances from their living spaces.
“Just getting [leftover substances] out of the homes and getting them to where they can be taken somewhere else by the police and getting rid of them helps [the drugs’ owners] so they don’t have access to those things if they are feeling down, feeling suicidal or if they have substance abuse issues,” said McKenzie Mueller, senior social work major and project organizer.
Mueller said keeping excess drugs out of homes removes the temptation to use them outside of their prescribed use. The takeback event, she said, started as an immersive learning project funded by university and city grants, which the group used to make posters, advertise the event and serve hot chocolate and popcorn to participants.
By the end of the event, the students collected three full boxes of unused drugs from 34 individual donations, Mueller said. Ball State University Police Department (UPD) officers were present throughout the event to supervise the drop-off and to dispose of the drugs after the event.
“UPD and Muncie Police Department in general have done an excellent job in helping to facilitate some of these events, both in this one and ones we’ve done in the past,” said Dane Minnick, assistant professor of social work.
UPD will drop off the drugs in an incinerator after the event to prevent them from being destroyed in potentially environmentally harmful ways, like flushing the substances down toilets or being dumped into rivers, which can be dangerous to local ecosystems, Minnick said.
Minnick, who runs the immersive learning class, said he hopes the new event can return on an annual or semesterly basis. He said drug takebacks are one of the more effective forms of removing substances from the community, citing Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration prevention strategies as a significant influence on the way the event was organized.
“Muncie itself is one of the counties with higher substance use rates. If you’re looking at the vulnerability index for counties, Delaware County is very much at the top in terms of these types of activities,” Minnick said. “[Events like this] can have a big impact, both in raising awareness of issues and then serving as an environmental strategy to get opioids and some of the other harmful prescription drugs off the street.”