The sheriff’s office counts hundreds of pounds of prescription pills every year.
“There is a lot of pill counting, and we count them now by hand,” said Deputy Heidi Warren, a public information officer with the Haywood Sheriff’s Office.
Not only is the task time-consuming and inefficient, but there’s room for human error when hand counting hundreds of tiny pills.
“Somebody speaks to you and you have to start over, or you lose track,” Warren said.
Not all the tedious counting is for pills confiscated from drug dealers or users. Anytime law enforcement responds to a death, even of natural causes, any pill bottles and prescriptions in the deceased person’s name are removed from the home.
“If someone had died of cancer and they have a lot of pain medication in the home, we take custody of those medications so nobody else can have access to them,” Warren said. “And those all get counted and get admitted into evidence.”
The goal is to keep those prescription meds from ending up in circulation. Taking pills prescribed to another person is illegal and can lead to an unintended addiction.
At times, the sheriff’s office has aided with “pill take backs,” a collection drive that encourages the public to turn in old, no-longer-needed pills from their medicine cabinets.
With a pill counter, the sheriff’s office could document the number and type of prescription pills being turned in to the pill drop-boxes or during pill take-back campaigns, Warren said.
Haywood County commissioners approved a request from Sheriff Greg Christopher this week to purchase a pill counter for $2,500.
“The pill counter eliminates a lot of human contact with pills,” said Commissioner Mark Swanger. Even though officers wear gloves when counting the pills, it’s wise to limit the handling of what can be mystery substances. Pills that come in through the pill drives or that are no longer needed in evidence are incinerated by the county.
The pill counter will be bought with drug seizure money, which is earmarked specifically for drug enforcement and prevention initiatives. Neither Jackson nor Macon county sheriff’s office have pill counters.