Drug disposal is a good plan

Thumbs up: Drug disposal is a good plan

South Sound residents now have a safe way to dispose of their unused prescription drugs. Residents can place old prescription medications in a drop box that recently was placed outside the district court building at the Thurston County Courthouse on Lakeridge Drive. That will keep the drugs out of the hands of potential abusers. Medications left in the metal box will be incinerated at a business used as an evidence-disposal site by the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office, Chief Criminal Deputy James Chamberlain said. The box gives people a more environmentally friendly option than flushing unused medications down the toilet or throwing them away. Those disposal methods can result in drugs leaching into the soil and winding up in groundwater. It’s unwise to let expired or unused prescription medications sit in medicine cabinets, said Sherri McDonald, the director of Thurston County Public Health and Social Services. Family members or acquaintances can easily take medications from unlocked cabinets and use them recreationally or sell them, she said. Prescription medications that are used for pain relief, such as Vicodin, Oxycodone or codeine, are among those often used recreationally. Providence St. Peter Hospital on Olympia’s east side and Providence Centralia Hospital last year began a pharmaceutical waste segregation program. Every nurse in the hospitals is trained to capture and segregate all unused medication, with the exception of narcotics. The hospital works with a third-party contractor to dispose of the unused drugs in an environmentally friendly way. Federal laws make it impossible for hospitals to hand over narcotics to a third party, so they have to be disposed on site. The program costs the Providence system about $80,000 to $90,000 a year, plus training costs, but it’s worth it to protect the health of our community, said Jennifer Reynolds, public/media relations coordinator for Providence St. Peter Hospital.

Thumbs down: Venture fallout

The tragic consequences of the loss of Venture Bank continue to play out in the South Sound community. Venture Bank, a 30-year-old South Sound community bank, was closed by state and federal regulators then sold to First-Citizens Bank & Trust. Co. of North Carolina on Sept. 11. Venture Financial Group, formerly of DuPont, now of Lacey, is the parent company of the failed bank. About 250 Venture Financial Group employees who were invested in retirement plans that held company stock lost an average of nearly $50,000 each during a key period before the bank closed. A class-action lawsuit has been filed by two of those employees, Sandi Wilson and Synthia Lisi, both of Olympia. The lawsuit, filed by Andrew Volk, an attorney at Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP, of Seattle, alleges that from Jan. 1, 2008, to Sept. 11, 2009, the company and its directors failed to carefully manage employee stock ownership and 401(k) plans and made unnecessarily risky investments that caused company stock to fall. About 250 employees were invested in both plans and lost about $12 million, according to the lawsuit. Volk said employees had little flexibility in selling company stock in their retirement plans. “During most of the class period (January 2008 to September 2009), there were few people who could get out,” he said. As part of the case, attorneys also will check into whether executives and directors unloaded company stock. It’s amazing how many lives have been touched by this single bank failure. Sadly, many of those suffering the most are South Sound residents, because Venture was a local financial institution.

Thumbs up: Sister City

About 50 people gathered in Yashiro Japanese Garden a week ago to welcome the new year Japanese-style. The event, adjacent to City Hall on Plum Street, was hosted by the Olympia-Kato Sister City Association, the local organization that promotes cultural exchanges with Kato, Japan. Olympia started its sister city relationship with Yashiro, Japan, in the early 1980s. Later Yashiro was absorbed into a larger city called Kato, which is not far from the cities of Kobe and Osaka in central Japan. Yashiro Japanese Garden, named after the original sister city, was dedicated in May 1990. Last week’s participants pounded steamed rice into a dumpling-like food known as mochi. The afternoon mochi-pounding event, or “mochitsuki” in Japanese, was a first for the local organization. Although mochi is eaten year-round in Japan, it typically is prepared for a traditional Japanese meal on New Year’s Day, said Peter Okada, a member of the association. Last Saturday’s mochi was given an American twist: Participants could try it with peanut butter and other sweet foods. Many South Sound residents have traveled to Japan as part of the sister city relationship and Yashiro and Kato have sent many delegates to Olympia in exchange. We salute the efforts of the sister city associations in Olympia and other South Sound cities because they help broaden our understanding of the people and cultures of distant communities and forge friendships that stand the test of time and distance.