The 10-year anniversary of the Community Connections prescription drug collection will be celebrated from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. on Saturday, July 20 at the Platte River Mall.

Volunteers and champions will be thanked with fun, games, and the Nebraskaland National Bank grill, organizers said.

With thanks to many, the Prescription Drug Collection has been a staple of the community since 2009, Community Connections Coordinator Catiana Urrutia said.

The first drug collection day in North Platte was April 25, 2009, organized by a six-person Leadership Lincoln County team who collected more than 80 pounds of prescription medicines people didn’t need anymore. The group — Wendy Thompson, Wanda Cooper, Sandy Ross, Bob Lantis, Patrick O’Neil and Connie Cook — then turned the project over to Community Connections, along with a check to help fund the program.

Illegal use of prescription drugs loomed larger than drinking or marijuana for students, North Platte High School Principal Jim Whitney said at the time.

Every third Saturday of the month, unused and outdated prescriptions and other medications can be safely disposed at the Platte River Mall (inside the main entrance)  from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. (No needles, please.)

This accomplishment serves as a significant and rare resource for rural America and the Community Connections Substance Abuse Prevention System is proud to have maintained it, Urrutia said.

The Substance Abuse Prevention System is now comprised of 26 community members that work to educate individuals and modify behaviors to reduce underage drinking, binge drinking, prescription drug abuse and marijuana use.

Each month, the Community Connections Substance Abuse Prevention System partners with law enforcement, medical representatives and volunteers to provide a safe disposal site for expired or unused medications.

Volunteers have put in hundreds of hours during the last 10 years to ensure this event remains a consistent and reliable prevention strategy to make the community a safer place, Urrutia said.

On average, about 25 pounds of medications are disposed every month. There are approximately 1,000 pills per pound, which means that roughly 25,000 pills are being safely disposed of monthly, organizers say. Since 2009, approximately 3 million pills have been safely removed from circulation.

The monthly collection receives help from the Nebraska State Patrol, the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department, the North Platte Police Department, pharmacists, nurses and volunteers.

Organizers hope residents will come to the mall to celebrate this accomplishment and the strides the community has taken to combat the opioid epidemic, Urrutia said.