Prescription Drug Take Back/Family Fun Day October 27


Clarence Romero, HU police chief, left, Desiree Martínez, HU-CARES prevention coordinator, and Latasha Burbank, HU CARES Center Site Advocate, at a previous drug take-back event.
Margaret McKinney/Highlands University

Las Vegas, N.M – Highlands University and the San Miguel County Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition are sponsoring a day for the community to come together Oct. 27 to safely dispose of unused and unwanted prescription drugs.

The fifth Drug Take Back/Family Fun Day is from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. at Highlands University’s Melody Park. There will be free hot dogs, live music, games for children, a fall photobooth, and more.

Desiree Martínez, HU-CARES prevention coordinator at Highlands, is helping organize the event on behalf of the San Miguel County Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition.

“This event is a very strong collaborative effort between many different agencies in San Miguel County,” Martínez said. “More than 500 people attended our fifth drug take back in April. We’ve collected 686 pounds of prescription drugs since our first take back in October 2016.”

Martínez said that according to the New Mexico Department of Health, San Miguel County has improved from its top five ranking for opioid abuse in 2014 to its current top 10 ranking in the state.

“We believe our successful local drug take-back events and education outreach are having an impact by promoting awareness. In San Miguel County, we’re seeing a drop in teens using painkillers to get high. However, teens still obtain these drugs mostly from friends and family members who are using them as prescribed,” Martínez said.

She said prescription painkillers, including opioids like oxycodone and Percocet, are highly addictive.

The federal Drug Enforcement Agency protocol will be used for safely collecting the materials in drop boxes. The Highlands campus police turns the boxes over to the DEA.

“We see a lot of participation at these events because we offer the only place to safely dispose of legal and illicit drugs with no questions asked, and we also accept used needles,” said Clarence Romero, the Highlands chief of police. “Our drug take back has become a model event both nationally and in New Mexico.”

There will also be raffles and free giveaways at the event. The San Miguel County DWI Program is providing go-kart rides and the local Elks Club will have its Drug Awareness Trailer on-site.

“The idea is to make this a family-friendly event where people can return unwanted drugs and learn more about community resources. More than 30 local agencies will be participating,” Martínez said.

Primary sponsors funding the event include the Mora, San Miguel and Guadalupe counties Local Collaborative 4 and the Southwest Addiction Technology Transfer Center.

The 35-member San Miguel County Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition was established in 2014 after Highlands received a New Mexico Office of Substance Abuse Prevention grant. The university administers the grant.

For more information about the Oct. 27 Drug Take Back/Family Fun event, contact Martínez at 505-454-3518 or desireemartinez@nmhu.edu  If the weather is inclement, the event will be in the Highlands Student Center, 800 National Ave.