The University of Michigan will be hosting a medication take-back event Saturday morning, sponsored by the Division of Pain Research in the Department of Anesthesiology and the Ann Arbor Police Department. The event aims to provide a safe way for people to get rid of over-the-counter or prescription painkillers, removing the potential for abuse of or addiction to these addictive substances.

The Ann Arbor event will take place in the Pioneer High School parking lot at 601 W. Stadium Blvd., with concurrent events to be held in seven other locations around the state, including Commerce, Jackson, Saginaw and Traverse City.

Anesthesiology professor Chad Brummett organized all the events as co-director of the Michigan Opioid Prescribing Engagement Network, based at the University. The event began three years ago when Brummett and his research group decided to restructure their community service to fit an unmet need they saw in Michigan.

The general goal of Michigan-OPEN’s work is prevention. Brummett said his team is primarily focused on getting drugs out of homes before there is an opportunity for dependency or addiction.

AAPD Sgt. Dawn Murphy is the leader of the department’s Community Engagement Unit and will oversee police involvement in the event. AAPD handles the disposal of the drugs after they are turned in.

Brummett credits AAPD with a massive role in facilitating the event.

“We couldn’t do this without the police department,” Brummett said. “They are a vital part of this effort. Our role is to create hype and get people out. They’re very humble in their affiliation, but they’ve been a great partner.”

Despite the nature of the problem at hand, Murphy emphasized the event is intended to be a positive and productive experience for all involved.

“I just hope that everybody can make it a point to come out and talk to their neighbors and family and see if there are any drugs that can be disposed of and bring them out to us,” Murphy said. “It’s a good feeling that Ann Arbor can participate in this and … do something beneficial for the community.”

In addition to AAPD, Brummett relies on student volunteers to keep the event running smoothly. LSA sophomore Ellie English is a research assistant for Brummett and became involved with the effort this year.

She and others will be on-site at Pioneer High School Saturday to ensure the event is a success.

“It’s a really good opportunity to help the community,” English said. “I think that the opioid epidemic is a really big thing that we need to work on. That’s why I was really interested in joining.”

Reflecting on the impact of the effort, Brummett is proud of what this vast coalition of researchers and volunteers has been able to accomplish in the last three years.

“It feels incredible,” Brummett said. “The engagement and the response in the community has been overwhelming. People are deeply appreciative, and the energy from the group is really fantastic.”

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