The Big Red Barrel’s History

How it started:

Heroin addiction typically starts with prescription medication abuse, specifically heavy pain killers. After numerous deaths throughout Livingston County that were attributed to drug overdoses, Livingston County Community Alliance members (LCCA) members saw the need for a place where people could safely dispose of their unwanted medication. With permanent prescription drug collection units available for community use, it would decrease the likelihood of prescription drug abuse, heroin use, and maintain a healthy environment.

The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) mandates that prescription drug take back programs be monitored by law enforcement at all times.  The members spoke with the Livingston County Sheriff’s department to gage law enforcement buy-in. The department said that if LCCA volunteers were willing to do the foot work, law enforcement would support the effort and be willing to handle pill collections and disposal. With assistance from community businesses, local law enforcement agencies, students, and other community members, LCCA members were able to design units that looked like big, red, barrels. The big red barrels were first placed in the Michigan State Police Department in Brighton, MI and at the Livingston County Sheriff’s Department in April, 2011.

Results: By October, 2011, the Big Red Barrels could be found in most police departments throughout Livingston County.  As of April, 2014, 1,756 pounds of pills have been collected from the Big Red Barrels. There have been numerous calls from cities throughout the State of Michigan and as far away as Boston, MA inquiring about the program! The barrels and the LCCA have received publicity from all local television stations and was recognized by the State of Michigan as a Hometown Health Hero. Click here to see the pictures from the award ceremony.

Continuing Plans:
The Big Red Barrel program has become a model program for other communities interested in creating similar drug take back programs. The LCCA is looking forward to working with these communities. A Big Red Barrel tool-kit is available for groups to use as a guide for constructing their own drug collection units.  For more information about this tool-kit, contact Megan at 517-545-5944.