The site for substance abuse prevention and mental health promotion professionals and volunteers.

Home » Finally! Launch date in sight for statewide Secure Drug Take-Back Program!

Finally! Launch date in sight for statewide Secure Drug Take-Back Program!

Prevention advocates: There's a good news step forward in your many years of work advocating for more community drug take-back options as part of a comprehensive approach to addressing the opioid epidemic and medicine abuse!  A statewide drug take-back program will launch in late November under the WA Secure Drug Take-Back Act.
A pharmaceutical industry drug take-back proposal was approved by the WA State Department of Health on May 25th as compliant with the state law RCW 69.48, which was enacted in 2018 after many years of advocacy and lobbying.  The program will be operated by MED-Project and funded by hundreds of pharmaceutical manufacturers whose prescription and over-the-counter medicines are sold into our state. 

The approved program proposal is linked from DOH's Safe Medication Return Program page:

MED-Project has 180 days to implement the approved program which means drug take-back services must begin in late November 2020.  The approved plan states MED-Project will meet the law's collection system convenience standard on day one of program launch and begin promoting the program to residents on day one. The program will operate secure drug drop boxes and a prepaid return mail-back program. Areas lacking access to secure drop boxes will get supplemental mail-back services and/or collection events supervised by law enforcement. Existing drug take-back locations can join the MED-Project program and have all costs paid.

MED-Project is currently operating drug take-back programs in 7 counties in Western WA with local drug take-back ordinances. Over time those local programs will merge into a unified statewide drug take-back program. More info about those 7 county-level MED-Project programs is at under Washington State. Those successful programs are a preview of what's coming for the whole state.

Thank You & Congratulations!  A diverse coalition of proponents worked long and hard to pass a good state law with clear requirements, strong standards for program services, accountability, and transparency. The voices of prevention professionals with their deep knowledge of substance abuse prevention and community needs were critical. Our solidarity on the policy, the leadership of the 7 counties that passed local laws, and the steadfast leadership of our prime sponsor Representative Strom Peterson and so many other legislators were essential to get to this point.  Our strong pharmaceutical stewardship law gave WA DOH the authority to require numerous improvements to the industry’s initial proposals to meet requirements for the comprehensive program we envisioned. This was hard work for WA DOH and their efforts are appreciated! 

What’s next? 

  • Promotion. Helping promote the MED-Project drug take-back program when it launches in November. Drug manufacturers are required to provide education and promotion to residents, health professionals, and many others. Your organization’s efforts can amplify and supplement this in your community. If you are interested in coordinating with WA DOH on promotion, please contact Carly Bartz-Overman who is the lead staff at WA DOH.
  • Participation. Encouraging potential collection sites and mailer distribution sites across the state to participate in the MED-Project program.  Many pharmacies, clinics, hospitals, law enforcement, and others have indicated they want to participate. Many are already participating in the 7 counties with local laws – thank you! MED-Project will launch a WA website that will provide more info for collectors and mailer distributors. For now, MED-Project has contact info on this website:
  • Watch-dogging. Making sure the MED-Project program meets the law’s requirements, serves residents and communities well, and is working for all the participating collection sites and mailer distribution locations.  WA DOH’s oversight and compliance role is defined in the law.  Stakeholders can do their part by providing feedback to WA DOH and to MED-Project as the program is implemented. 

I got involved with this drug take-back initiative more than 10 years ago as a King County staffer, then continued the work as a policy consultant, and at times as a volunteer who just couldn't let go. Through a partnership with many diverse organizations that grew over the years, we struggled to pass a state bill, failed, found traction with local Board of Health ordinances, went back to the state Legislature in 2017, and finally got a good law passed in 2018. I am forever grateful for the people I've met and the relationships formed during the journey.

Thank you being a critical part of this small but meaningful step towards making our families healthier, our communities safer, and our environment cleaner!

Margaret Shield, PhD
(pronouns: she/her/hers)
Community Environmental Health Strategies, LLC
mobile:  206-499-5452