Last month's drug take-back event was a record-breaking one for Northern California, with Merced County playing a role in that effort.
It was part of National Drug Take Back Day, which allows residents to take unused or unwanted prescription drugs to designated drop-off sites to dispose of them safely.
Northern California had a record 211 collection sites held by 147 law enforcement agencies, according to an email from the Department of Justice. More than 18 tons of unused or expired medications were dropped off.
Nationally, 371 tons of drugs were collected, according to the Department of Justice. California contributed 35 tons to that total.
Locally, residents took unwanted or expired medications April 27 to the Merced County Sheriff's Department, UC Merced Police Department and Livingston Police Department.
Livingston Police Chief Ruben Chavez said more than 100 pounds of drugs were collected in his city. That's about five times more than officials collected during last year's event.
"I think people are starting to understand the importance of it," Chavez said.
Too often, people improperly dispose of prescription drugs, he noted. Simply flushing them down the toilet or throwing them in the trash can he harmful to the environment.
It's also common to have prescription drugs left over after a surgery or illness, Chavez said. Removing those drugs from the house can prevent people from being tempted to abuse them. It also keeps them out of the hands of children.
Chavez plans to continue the program in Livingston. He said it's a useful tool for educating the public and keeping residents' homes safe.
Reporter Mike North can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or firstname.lastname@example.org.