Chalk up this event as something not seen on a regular basis in Canby, or in many places for that matter.
Canby High School students lead an effort in conjunction with Lines for Life, a Portland-based nonprofit whose mission is to bring awareness and keep open conversations about drug abuse and suicide prevention, to establish a new prescription drug drop box at Dave's Prescription Shop where the community can dispose of unwanted or expired pills.
John Sowles, owner since 1999 of Dave's Prescription Shop, located at 911 SW Fourth Avenue next to the Safeway shopping center, said he hopes the drop box, which essentially is the same as the one located at the Canby Police Department, fills up quickly.
"We're installing this drop box for the community so people have a safe place to put their unwanted prescription drugs, specifically opioids and benzodiazepines," Sowles said. "I'd like to see those get off the streets and out of our rivers. But people are welcome to bring any kind of drug — over the counter or prescriptions — that they no longer need or use, or that have expired."
Trevor Lockwood, a Canby School District licensed clinical social worker and mental health drug and alcohol prevention specialist, said he talked with Canby High School's student body, both in health classes and leadership classes, and asked how they wanted to make a difference.
Originally, students were interested in doing a flu prevention-type clinic, and talking about suicide prevention — the new Netflix series '13 Reasons Why,' which graphically and grippingly focuses on one student's horrifying decision, the events leading to it and the fallout from her action, was referenced several times during the event at Dave's Prescription Shop — but soon students began to discuss the opioid epidemic sweeping the U.S. and decided they wanted to focus their efforts on keeping alive conversations about drug abuse and suicide prevention as their way of giving back to the community.
"Opioid abuse is something we unfortunately tend to sweep under the rug," Oregon U.S. Congressman Kurt Schrader (D-Oregon City) said. "Unfortunately, it's become a nationwide epidemic and Oregon has become one of the top states in the abuse category. I'm very concerned about it and the committee I'm on (the Energy and Commerce Health Care Subcommittee) passed a bill last November called the '21st Century Cures Act.' One big piece of it puts $1 billion into the opioid epidemic. Congress is taking this very seriously. People have experiences and don't know what to do. These kids here are doing something that is super valuable."
Canby High Principal Greg Dinse said the new prescription drop box is an example of how kids are learning in school and extending that knowledge into the community in ways that make a tangible impact.
"In Trevor Lockwood's classes, the kids learn to look at social issues and things that affect the community as a whole," Dinse said. "I think it's wonderful that they take that, start spreading the message about it and look at ways to produce real-life results that you and I can see in the form of this drop-box."
The always affable Canby Police Lieutenant Jorge Tro said this particular effort, spearheaded by teenagers, has many affects that go beyond the drop-box.
"Prescription drug abuse is a huge issue across the country and this is a way to dispose of them properly," he said. "It's a great way to keep the drugs out of the hands of people, and dispose of them safely, keeping it out of the hands of people who abuse prescription medications or steal them from people. We have a drop-box at the police station and now it's great to have one at Dave's Prescription Shop."
Mike Zagyva, president of the Canby School District Board of Directors, who is running unopposed for election this month, said he's impressed that this grass-roots effort came forward from Canby citizens who are close to adulthood.
"Our teenagers are in good hands and of a good mindset," Zagyva said. "In my 30 years of being a school administrator, I've always had a positive outlook on our kids here in Canby. They see a problem and they find a way to address it."
Derrick Sommers, a Canby High student instrumental in establishing the new drop-box, said the national statistics on prescription drug abuse are overwhelming.
"It affects the entire U.S.," Sommers said. "We're trying to get some press and get better at talking to the press so what we're doing is covered in a positive light."