Photo of people puting bags in box

Interim Highlands police chief Clarence Romero, center, helps collect unused prescriptions drugs from community members at the first Prescription Drug Take Back/Family Fun Day at Melody Park in Las Vegas Oct. 22, 2016. A second drug take back event is scheduled for April 29.

Las Vegas, N.M – The San Miguel County Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition and Highlands University are sponsoring a day for the community to come together April 29 to safely dispose of unused and unwanted prescription drugs.

The second Drug Take Back/Family Fun Day is from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. at Highlands University’s Melody Park.

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. “Thanks to the planning committee, our first drug take back in October 2016 was a big success, with 92 pounds of prescription drugs turned in along with other materials. More than 250 community members participated.”

Martínez said safely disposing of unwanted prescription medications means less will fall into the hands of anyone selling them illegally or taking them unnecessarily.

“The New Mexico Department of Health and other data sources rank San Miguel County as one of the highest in the state for teenagers using prescription drugs to get high. A major concern is that prescription painkillers, including opioids like oxycodone and Percocet, are highly addictive,” Martínez said.

According to the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, overdose deaths related to prescription drug use are seeing a sharp increase nationwide, with a 2.8-fold total increase between 2001 and 2014.

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.

People may also bring used diabetic needles for disposal.

Martínez said the reasoning behind making the event family-friendly is that prescription drug abuse doesn’t just affect the person, but also the person’s family.

“In addition, a family event is less intimidating,” said Martínez, who earned her Master of Social Work at Highlands. Three current Highlands MSW student interns are helping with the event including Shyann Romero-Martínez, Derrick Ortega, and Michael Christiansen.

There will be free hotdogs, popcorn and snow cones, along with food to purchase. In addition, there will be raffles and free giveaways.

The San Miguel County DWI Program is providing go-kart rides for the event. The Elks Lodge #408 will sponsor games like ring tosses and balloon darts. There will also be Frisbees, footballs, volleyballs, and soccer balls to use at the event.

The San Miguel County Substance Coalition will staff more than 30 information tables for people to learn about local health and wellness resources.

“Another important coalition goal with this event is to connect families to resources,” Martínez said.

Primary sponsors funding the event include Alta Vista Regional Hospital; 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 federal Office of Substance Abuse Prevention grant. The university administers the grant.

For more information about the April 29 Drug Take Back/Fun Event, contact Martínez at 505-454-3518 or