PRICE — Most people know there are places to properly dispose of unused prescription medications.
A dumpster isn't one of them.
So when the KSL Investigators got a tip that there was a dumpster filled with drugs, they went to Price to personally dig into it.
Body camera and dash camera video show an incident that happened on July 24. Price police were called after a man was seen dumpster diving near 575 E. 100 South. Officers found prescription pills in the dumpster — and not just a few. Video of the incident shows how surprised the two officers were at the discovery.
Officer #1: "How much is in there?
Officer #2: "A lot. Go look."
Officer #1: (walks to the dumpster and looks in) "Holy (expletive)"
Officer #2: Yeah.
Even with the police video, it's hard to tell how many pills were inside the dumpster that day. But according to the police report, officers collected "29 pounds of medication with patient info."
Police said the pills were dumped by a local mental health facility, Four Corners Community Behavioral Health. With that information, the KSL Investigators took a trip to Price to check out that very dumpster, located on a very public street, to see if it was still happening.
But after searching through every sack and each piece of trash, they came up empty-handed.
Karen Dolan, director of Four Corners, said the whole thing was an unfortunate mistake.
"It was an accident. It was an accidental discarding of medication," she said. "We had a newer staff member cleaning out a cupboard and she had packaged some expired psychiatric medications in a garbage bag and threw it in a dumpster."
When asked if it had ever happened before, Dolan said, "Not to my knowledge. Absolutely not."
Dolan said she doesn't take it lightly either and claims the types of drugs that went in the trash were not narcotics or opiates, which are known to be highly addictive.
When asked if the types of drugs that were thrown away (anti-depressants, antipsychotic medications, mood stabilizers) could be dangerous for somebody who shouldn't be taking them, Dolan answered, "Could be, yeah, could be. But luckily, it was caught right in the nick of time so we're very grateful."
Dolan said the only information on the medications was client names, no Social Security numbers or birth dates. She said they alerted the affected patients of the incident.
A one-time mix-up. But the police video implies something different.
Officer #1: "You're saying that Four Corners dumped all these pills?"
Officer #2: "Yeah. That's what he (dumpster diver) just said. That Four Corners always throws away all their old patient pills."
The police report also says that the man caught dumpster diving, "looks in the garbage can at Four Corners often because he has a soft spot for psychiatric medication and Four Corners throws medication away." It cannot be confirmed whether or not the man's claim about Four Corners in the police report is accurate.
Brian Besser leads the Drug Enforcement Agency in Salt Lake City. He says medication dumped in the garbage could pollute our water system.
"Twenty-nine pounds of prescription drugs, if you really think about it from an environmental standpoint, it's 29 pounds of poison," he said. "They should know better, you would think."
Maybe more concerning, Besser says the drugs could end up in the hands of people who are vulnerable, like children or addicts.
"There's zero margin of error for us during this opioid epidemic because we're losing in between six to 10 Utahns per week, 24 to 30 Utahns a month from opioid abuse right now," Besser said.
In the dash cam video, police can be seen hauling away two large bags supposedly containing the discarded drugs. They're taking them to be incinerated. However, the KSL Investigators learned no citation was ever given to the behavioral health facility. Why? Turns out there is no law in Utah against dumping medications in the trash.
Besser said maybe there should be.
"Why isn't there a law in regards to this?" Besser asked. "There should be some type of accountability for improperly disposing of drugs that are contributing to the opioid epidemic and could accidentally or inadvertently poison someone. That is not something we take lightly."
If you'd like to find out how to properly dispose of your prescription medications, go to useonlyasdirected.org/throw-out/
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