KEITH WHITCOMB JR., Staff Writer
BENNINGTON -- Thanks to local students, unwanted prescription drugs can be dropped off at the Bennington Police Department any time day or night.
The drop box, unveiled Thursday, looks like a barrel with a pipe sticking out the top, and that's what it is, but it's more complex than it appears.
The drug container could not look like a mailbox, said Bennington Police Lt. Lloyd Dean, and had to be designed so people could not reach in and take what had been put in. Bailey Willard, 18, a student at the Southwest Vermont Career Development Center, did the lion's share of the work on the project while in a design and fabrication class being taught by Bruce Gabrus.
Willard is a senior and is eyeing college in Pennsylvania. "Machining, that's what I'd like to do," he said. "In the future I'd like to open up my own shop and work on stuff, and restoration, and things like that."
"He learned a lot of skills just by going through this whole project and I think that's great," said Gabrus.
The container is decked out in eye-catching graphics that make it clear what it is. The graphic design was done by Zachariah Washburn and Ashley Myers, CDC students in a communications technology class.
The project was completed in time for National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, which runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. Prescription drugs can also be brought to the Bennington County Sheriff's Department on Lincoln Street. The Manchester Police Department is another drop-off location. The box at the BPD is the first 24-hour location where medications can be dropped.
The medications will be disposed of periodically in a safe manner, said Dean. Willard also designed the container to be quite heavy and thus difficult to make off with, even if it were not in the heavily monitored police station lobby.
"I am very pleased about this project," said Bennington Police Chief Paul Doucette. "It's something that we've been working on, and I'll tell you why. We here at the Bennington Police Department are determined in solving the drug issues we face in our community, and it's not just here, it's county-wide, statewide, nationwide, that we're having problems with prescription drug abuse."
He alluded to the two major drug sweeps that occurred in Bennington County this year, and later other parts of the state. The sweeps mostly targeted suspected cocaine and heroin dealers, but there were a number of people charged with selling prescription medications.
Investigations and arrests are one thing, he said, but more needs to be done. The prescription drop-offs are designed to remove prescription medications from the streets so they can not be stolen then used improperly or sold.
"We try to get them through the court system and on the route to recovery, but it's not just about going out and arresting people that makes us successful," said Doucette. "We have to find ways to alleviate issues, and working with Mr. Gabrus and our partners, this project is just outstanding."
"We're excited, because the more the better," said Judith Fellows-Miller, of the Vermont Health Department, who attended the drop box's debut.
"The first one is a prototype, so there's always modifications that can be done," said Gabrus. "I think this is the first place to see if everything is going to work the way that we want it and we can go from there."
Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @KWhitcombjr.