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Rep. Mary Bono, Adm. James Winnefeld: Opioid Crisis Crusaders

The two heavy hitters talk to about their work to make the disposal of unused prescription painkillers a top-of-mind issue

Former U.S. Rep. Mary Bono (R-Calif.) and retired Adm. James Winnefeld make a formidable duo in the crusade against opioid misuse. They’ve been fighting the good fight together for years at a high level, most recently as the point persons on an initiative called Gone for Good.

The program, which runs each April and October, is designed to help people safely dispose of the billions of leftover prescription opioid medications that are gathering dust—or worse, being used unnecessarily—in homes, healthcare facilities, businesses and government agencies. Winnefeld’s anti-addiction nonprofit SAFE Project teams with the Deterra Drug Deactivation System to make the much-needed magic happen.

The patented Deterra System is a simple way to deactivate prescription drugs, pills, patches, liquids, creams and films. You fill a Deterra pouch halfway with warm water, seal and gently shake the bag, and then pitch it in the trash. Voila! Jason Sundby, chairman and CEO of Verde Technologies Inc., the maker of the Deterra System, says 25,000 pouches were distributed in 2020. Hopes are high for similar success this year.

For both Winnefeld, 65, and Bono, 59, the work is extremely personal. In 2017, Winnefeld lost his 19-year-old son, Jonathan, to opioid addiction. The tragedy spurred him to do everything within his power to combat the opioid epidemic, notably by founding SAFE Project that year.

Bono’s life was touched most acutely by drugs when her teenage son, Chesare, became addicted to prescription opioids in the 2000s. Since leaving Congress in 2013, she has become involved in a number of addiction-related causes, including running Mothers Against Prescription Drug Abuse (MAPDA) and sitting on the boards of SAFE Project and Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA). spoke with Bono and Winnefeld via Zoom about prescription opioid disposal and their personal ties to addiction.