Arkansas Drug Director Kirk Lane spoke to a large crowd from the steps of the Arkansas State Capitol today about how the Opioid Epidemic is affecting thousands of Arkansans everyday. Beyond the facts and statistics, including how the state is #2 in the nation for over-prescribing opioids (114.6 opioid prescriptions per 100 people; the national average is
66.5 prescriptions per 100 people), Lane spoke to the heart of his passion – saving lives. He said one way to battle the epidemic is by providing first responders across the state with life-saving naloxone kits (which contain medicine to temporarily reverse an overdose due to an opioid), and with partners in the state, they are distributing hundreds of kits with the goal to reach every first responder.
Lane also said educating everyone on the dangers/risks of opioids and how to properly dispose of them, is also key to reversing the epidemic. Here is a brief video of his message:
In response to Lane’s message, several other state and city leaders spoke about a lawsuit that was recently filed. From the Arkansas Association of Counties:
In a unified and unprecedented approach against the opioid drug industry, the state of Arkansas, Arkansas counties and Arkansas cities announced that together they have filed a lawsuit in the Circuit Court of Crittenden County.
This unique litigation approach is unlike any others in the country and will represent 90 percent of Arkansas’s population, with 72 counties and 210 cities participating. It is believed that it will cost billions to stop the Arkansas opioid epidemic and that this money should come from the companies that caused the problem instead of taxpayers.
“Though other lawsuits have been filed in federal courts across the country, Arkansas is the only state that has united in this fashion,” said Chris Villines, executive director of the Association of Arkansas Counties. “Instead of fighting and competing with each other on critically needed settlement dollars for our cities and counties, all of the cities and counties are working together to do what’s best for Arkansas.”
The epidemic is real and has ravaged Arkansas families for years. While the U.S. experiences more than 42,000 fatal overdoses a year, Arkansas experiences over 400, a number that has increased nearly 300 percent since 2000 and coincides with opioid sales quadrupling. Additionally, Arkansas ranks second in the nation for ages 12-17 in misuse of opioids (4.67%) behind Alabama, which is also the only other state with a higher opioid prescribing rate than Arkansas, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“It is hard to find anyone who hasn’t felt the effects of an opioid addiction from family, friends or even in themselves,” said Kirk Lane, Arkansas State Drug Director. “Though great strides have been made recently to curb the epidemic – especially helping cities fund necessary resources like the opiate antagonist Naloxone (Narcan) – much more could be done to fund ongoing programs for education and prevention.”
In 2017, there were more opioid prescriptions than people – enough for every man, woman and child to have 80 pills per year. Hospitals and rehabilitation systems cannot keep pace with the influx of victims. The resources of public safety officials are constantly strained to meet the overwhelming needs of opioid-related emergencies. As a result, the state of Arkansas, its counties, cities and taxpayers have funded the enormous societal costs of the opioid epidemic, but have had insufficient revenue to turn the tide of the epidemic.
“Arkansas’s one-voice approach to this lawsuit is one that gives us a seat at the table,” said Don Zimmerman, executive director of the Arkansas Municipal League. “Neither the state or any county or city is big enough alone; this litigation approach ensures that recovered damages remain in Arkansas.”