As America's opioid crisis continues to spiral out of control, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Drug Enforcement Administration are joining forces with Google Maps to tackle the epidemic.
On Thursday, Google's mapping service is announcing a new government-backed initiative designed to make it easier for Americans to safely dispose of their excess medication, thus ensuring it doesn't fall into the wrong hands.
"Fifty-three percent of prescription drug abuse starts with drugs obtained from family or friends, so we're working alongside government agencies and non-profit organizations to help people safely remove excess or unused opioids from their medicine cabinets," Dane Glasglow, vice president of product for Google Maps, explained.
Also involved in the new effort are CVS, Walgreens, and state governments, which will work to surface local drug disposal locations in Google Maps year-round.
Users will be able to type in queries like "drug drop off near me" or "medication disposal near me" and Google Maps will display disposal locations at their local pharmacy, hospital, or government building where they can quickly and safely discard unneeded prescription drugs.
As of now, the plan is being launched at 3,500 locations nationwide, with a focus on seven states – Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan and Pennsylvania.
Officials are hoping this drug disposal program will serve as a critical tool in combating the nation's drug crisis. According to HHS, Americans are more likely to die from an opioid overdose than a car accident, with the epidemic claiming the lives of over 130 people daily.
"By bringing opioid disposal site information to Google Maps, Americans are only a search away from helping to address the opioid crisis," HHS Chief Technology Officer Ed Simcox said. "This type of consumer empowerment – providing easily accessible data – is the kind of innovation needed to improve healthcare."