Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts said Tuesday he felt proud that the Senate health committee, of which he is a member, recently voted to send a bi-partisan bill to the full Senate that would take various steps to fight this nation’s opioid abuse crisis.

Still, he said, “no activity in Washington can replace the hard work of folks here in Kansas to solve this crisis.”

That is why drug take-back kiosks are so important, he said.

Roberts spoke at a news conference held Tuesday in Topeka to announce that — as a result of a new partnership between Walgreens and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas — the number of Walgreens stores offering free safe medication disposal kiosks is increasing from four to 14 in the 103 Kansas counties BCBSKS serves.

Matt All, president and chief executive officer of BCBSKS, and Lynn Stover, regional vice president for Walgreens in the Midwest, also spoke at Tuesday’s conference. It was held outside the pharmacy at the rear of the Walgreens drug store at 1001 S.W. Topeka Blvd.

“We need to make sure than that safe disposal of medication is easier, and the expansion of these kiosks does that,” Stover said.

Walgreens already offers medication disposal kiosks at the Topeka store where Tuesday’s conference was held, as well as two of its locations in Wichita and one in Ottawa.

The chain is now adding kiosks at one store each in Wichita, Derby, Dodge City, Fort Scott, Hays, Hutchinson, Lawrence, Leavenworth, Manhattan and Pittsburg, All said.

The expansion is part of an effort announced last year by Walgreens, Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, Pfizer, Prime Therapeutics and Amerisource Bergen to combat the national opioid crisis by increasing the availability of such kiosks to an additional 900 Walgreens drugstores throughout the country, Walgreens and BCBSK said in a news release Tuesday.

When the expansion is complete, kiosks will be available in about 1,500 Walgreens stores nationwide, the release said.

It indicated the kiosks have collected more than 270 tons of unwanted medications since the program began in 2016.

Roberts said at Tuesday’s news conference that opioid abuse is “one of the greatest challenges that we face in our nation.”

He said the problem is growing in particular in rural areas, where many lack the access to treatment needed to overcome addiction.

Still, people who legitimately need controlled substances shouldn’t be denied access to them, Roberts said.

“That is why safe disposal is an important tool in addressing this very complex issue,” he said.