Federal Grant Program Encourages States to Increase Drug Take Back Efforts

medication disposal grant

Last fall, Congress passed the “Access to Increased Drug Disposal (AIDD) Act as part of a larger package of bills aimed at controlling the national opioid epidemic. AIDD allows states to compete for $10 million in federal grants designed to increase participation in safe medication disposal programs. Five states will be chosen to receive grant money to implement drug take back demonstration projects that encourage “authorized collectors,” such as hospitals and retail pharmacies, to increase public access to drug collection boxes.

Requirements for AIDD Federal Grants

Grant applications are due June 5, 2019. States hoping to receive federal grant funding from the US Department of Justice (DOJ) for drug collection boxes have to meet certain requirements. From the text of the bill:

SEC. 3254. APPLICATION.

A State desiring a covered grant shall submit to the Attorney General an application that, at a minimum—

  • identifies the single State agency that oversees pharmaceutical care and will be responsible for complying with the requirements of the grant;
  • details a plan to increase participation rates of eligible collectors as authorized collectors; and
  • describes how the State will select eligible collectors to be served under the grant.

SEC. 3255. USE OF GRANT FUNDS.

A State that receives a covered grant, and any subrecipient of the grant, may use the grant amounts only for the costs of installation, maintenance, training, purchasing, and disposal of controlled substances associated with the participation of eligible collectors as authorized collectors.

SEC. 3256. ELIGIBILITY FOR GRANT.

The Attorney General shall award a covered grant to 5 States, not less than 3 of which shall be States in the lowest quartile of States based on the participation rate of eligible collectors as authorized collectors, as determined by the Attorney General.

AIDD Addresses Low Usage of Drug Collection Kiosks by Authorized Collectors

The “Secure and Responsible Drug Disposal Act of 2010” allowed pharmacies and other authorized collectors to collect and dispose of unused pharmaceuticals from the public. However, a 2016 GAO report found that only about 3% of eligible pharmacies had placed drug collection boxes on site. Most cited the cost of purchasing a bin and paying for the destruction of collected drugs” as an impediment.

2016 GAO report map

AIDD sponsors hope to address the cost of participation by funding drug take back demonstration programs in five states and studying the results. DOJ is authorized to award grants for five fiscal years. According to one of the bill’s sponsors, Senator Richard Blumenthal:

“The selected states would then issue a report detailing how the grant funding was administered, which entities received funding, and how it impacted participation rates – providing additional insight into how best to improve the program and increase participation nationwide.”

Safe Medication Disposal Options Help Combat Drug Abuse

Many people think of “drug abuse” in terms of illegal drugs, but millions of Americans become addicted to legal prescription drugs. Some move on to dangerous illegal drugs like heroin. Opioids are a particular problem because they are addictive – and commonly prescribed.

Some important 2017 statistics on opioid addiction:

  • There were almost 58 opioid prescriptions written for every 100 Americans.
  • More than 17% of all Americans had at least one opioid prescription.
  • Over 68% of drug overdose deaths involved prescription opioids – more than 47,000 people died.

Naturally, not everyone who takes an opioid painkiller becomes addicted, but their unused prescriptions can trigger or enable addictions in others. As many as 92% of people don’t take their entire prescription of painkillers. Only 10% safely dispose of the leftover pills. Many patients keep them on hand “just in case,” often in unlocked cabinets.

While many communities participate in semi-annual drug take back days, public health officials realize that these special events are only partial solutions. Patients have to store their medications until the event, so they’re potentially available to unauthorized users. As such, officials are stressing the need for more convenient disposal solutions for ultimate users, like mailback envelopes and secure drug collection boxes placed in retail pharmacies and other authorized locations.

Sharps Compliance Has a Record of Success in Public/Private Partnerships

According to the GAO report cited previously, North Dakota had some of the highest participation rates in 2016, but officials were alarmed by a sudden rise in opioid-related overdose deaths. In 2017, the North Dakota Board of Pharmacy partnered with Sharps Compliance to place 136 MedSafe Medication Disposal System boxes at participating pharmacies. In a recent interview about North Dakota’s efforts to combat the opioid crisis, Mark J. Hardy, Executive Director of the Board of Pharmacy in North Dakota, noted:

“From our standpoint, MedSafe has worked really well. It’s relatively hassle-free for the pharmacies. They do have a small amount of maintenance work when they install and maintain the receptacle, but that’s a minimal burden. The customer service is excellent, and pharmacies that were initially reluctant to participate seem very happy to be offering the service.”

In 2018, Montana announced the receipt of a $730,000 federal grant to help reduce misuse of prescription drugs, particularly opioids. They, too, turned to Sharps Compliance. The federal funding allows Montana to distribute, at no cost to participants, 212 38-gallon MedSafe drug collection boxes and inner receptacle liners to “retail pharmacies and hospitals, and clinics with on-site pharmacies.” At the time of the announcement, only 22 of the approximate 360 pharmacies in Montana had drug collection boxes. In many counties in the state, not a single retail pharmacy had a collection box.

We have extensive experience working with federal agencies as well. The US Department of Veterans Affairs Center for Medication Safety emphasizes safe medication disposal. It provides Sharps Compliance TakeAway Medication Recovery System envelopes at no cost to patients as part of its pharmacy benefit service. Some VA facilities also have MedSafe drug collection boxes.

Sharps Compliance is committed to safe medication disposal solutions. Through our MedSafe drug collection boxes, we have collected and safely disposed of more than 1.3 million pounds of unused/unwanted pharmaceuticals. Contact us to learn more about how we can help you protect your community from the danger of drug diversion and improper drug disposal.


Wanda Lingner

Clinical Specialist – Strategic Regulatory Customer Compliance at Sharps Compliance
Wanda Lingner holds a BA in Nursing from Texas Woman’s University and a BBA in Management from Texas A&M University. She has over 20 years of clinical practice in both hospitals and private practice in a variety of medical specialties. As Clinical Specialist, she assists Sharps’ customers in evaluating current federal and state-specific medical and pharmaceutical waste regulations, developing medical waste management plans, and implementing compliant regulated medical and pharmaceutical waste management processes.
Wanda Lingner

Author: Wanda Lingner

Wanda Lingner holds a BA in Nursing from Texas Woman’s University and a BBA in Management from Texas A&M University. She has over 20 years of clinical practice in both hospitals and private practice in a variety of medical specialties. As Clinical Specialist, she assists Sharps’ customers in evaluating current federal and state-specific medical and pharmaceutical waste regulations, developing medical waste management plans, and implementing compliant regulated medical and pharmaceutical waste management processes.