There are three things you don’t want to do with unwanted medications: keep them at home, flush them down the toilet, or put them in the trash.

At home, they might be taken by intruders or family; in the toilet and trash, they get into the water system and pose health hazards to humans and animals.

Now there are places where people may take their unwanted medications for proper disposal, police and health officials say.

Medication collection boxes have been placed in 12 locations in Kennebec and Somerset counties, and some are accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The MedReturn boxes look much like standing postal boxes. One of the boxes was installed this week in the lobby of the Waterville Police Department. The green-and-blue metal box is 4½ feet tall, 2 feet wide and bolted to the floor.

“I think it will provide a convenient access point for folks in the Waterville area to come and dispose of prescription drugs,” said Police Chief Joseph Massey. The police station is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The boxes were purchased with a grant that the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office received after collaborating with several groups, including Greater Waterville Communities for Children & Youth.

Nancy Findlan, prevention director for Greater Waterville Communities, said the $63,415 grant is being used not only for the MedReturn boxes, which cost about $1,000 each, but also for educational training programs on proper disposal of medications, and to update a Web-based registry of people who are heavy users or abusers of prescription drugs. Pharmacies and others may consult the registry before dispensing medicines.

Findlan said having the drop-off boxes helps to keep medications out of the hands of youth and others, and potentially keeps the drugs off the streets.

“Prescription drugs have been a big issue, and there have not been any permanent ways for people to get rid of them,” Findlan said. “Consequently … people keep them in their cabinets where they’re accessible to people who shouldn’t get them.”

Kennebec County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Everett Flannery emphasized that people must leave labels on the medication they drop in the boxes so police can identify what it is and where it came from.

“With no label, it’s illegal contraband,” Flannery said.

He said all of the boxes are in place except at the Somerset Sheriff’s Office because one box was damaged during shipping.

That box should be in place by the end of the month, he said.