I am guessing that everyone reading this column is aware of the opioid epidemic in our country.

Every community, including New Albany, has been affected in some way by opioids, and it has become increasingly important for communities to find ways to keep prescription drugs out of the hands of those who aren't prescribed them.

For years, police and fire agencies in central Ohio have worked with the Drug Enforcement Administration, hospitals and pharmacies to coordinate drug take-back days.

In late 2016, Phil Heit from Healthy New Albany came to me with an alternative solution: a permanent community drug drop-off box that would help keep prescription drugs off our streets and possibly out of the hands of teens and loved ones.

Six months later, after we completed research about drug drop boxes, the New Albany Police Department in autumn 2017 installed a permanent box in the police station lobby at 50 Village Hall Road. Since then, residents have dropped off more than 75 pounds of unwanted prescriptions and over-the-counter drugs -- no questions asked.

I highlight the latter fact because anonymity may be important to some who would think about using the box. Staff members always are available to assist if you want or need help, but you can remain as anonymous as you want to be.

Drugs placed in the box stay out of the hands of those who may abuse them because everything placed in the box is incinerated. Plus, the box is available for use 24/7/365.

It is important to note that the drug drop box isn't for illegal drugs -- though if a parent wants to drop off illegal drugs he or she might have found, I encourage them to call 614-855-1234 to coordinate a time with police.

Our contract with the drop-box company does not cover illegal drugs, only prescription and over-the-counter drugs.

Accepted drop-box drugs include prescription pills, over-the-counter pills and FDA pills for animals. Liquid drugs are not accepted (these can be disposed of in cat litter and thrown away with trash), nor are syringes or illegal drugs.

Many pill containers will not fit in the drop box.

We suggest recycling the actual pill containers at home and destroying any personal information from those pill containers for your own protection before bringing your medications to the police station.

The box also is not for use by local doctors' offices.

Greg Jones is chief of the New Albany Police Department.