Apr 25 2018
Last month, I had the pleasure of spending some time with several mayors and local leaders who were in Washington with the Arkansas Municipal League. We had a lively and informative discussion on ways to continue the economic growth that has been taking off throughout Arkansas. While much of our conversation was focused on forward-thinking ways to continue these positive trends, there was also a frank and candid discussion about an issue that is currently holding our communities back—the opioid crisis.
Policymakers across our state have been struggling to help confront Arkansas’s heroin and opioid epidemic. The Natural State has been hit particularly hard by this national crisis. Retail data collected from pharmacies shows Arkansas has one of the highest per capita opioid consumption rates in the nation. Data from the Centers for Disease Control shows we have the second highest prescribing rate in the country—enough for each Arkansan to have more than one opioid prescription in his or her name.
It’s an issue that all of us—from city leaders, to lawmakers in Little Rock, to our Congressional delegation in Washington—continue to work tirelessly to confront because we’ve seen how pervasive this crisis is and how devastating its effects are.
In Washington, our latest move ensured that substantial resources for a wide-ranging strategy to counter the epidemic, nearly $4 billion, was included in the recent spending agreement.
The funding bill—which was signed into law by President Trump—increases resources for law enforcement, allocates money to important grant programs that help state and local governments offset the costs of opioid abuse and provides funds for research into opioid addiction and alternative treatments.
While we continue to look for new ways to tackle this problem, one step Washington took years ago continues to help. The “National Prescription Take-Back Initiative”—an effort spearheaded by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)—has helped remove expired, unused and unnecessary opioids from homes. Research has found that the majority of opioid abusers get their drugs from friends and family, often lifting pills from a familiar medicine cabinet. Removing them from homes helps reduce experimentation and overdoses.
In early 2010, a coalition of federal and state law enforcement officials, prevention professionals and private organizations launched an ongoing education program to encourage Arkansans to monitor, secure and dispose of their prescription medications. The coalition organized Arkansas’s participation in the DEA’s “National Prescription Take-Back Initiative” and has hosted collection events for eight years. Despite our state’s small population size, Arkansas ranks thirteenth in the nation in total weight collected over the course of 14 statewide take-back events. That’s a testament to the coalition’s efforts.
These events have produced the return of almost 132 tons of unneeded medications, which amounts to over 400 million pills. This campaign is clearly succeeding at getting unnecessary prescription drugs out of circulation and helping break the cycle of addiction in our communities.
The next take-back event is Saturday, April 28. There are more than 130 permanent drop-off sites across Arkansas and many law enforcement agencies host temporary drop-off sites at this event.
We all have a role to play in this effort. Arkansas Take-Back Day is an easy way each of us can do our part.