Weekly Columns

More action is needed to fight the abuse of prescription drugs according to the Kaiser Health Foundation poll released in early May. The nationwide survey revealed that two-thirds of Americans believe the federal and state governments should do more to combat the national heroin and prescription drug epidemic. There is momentum in Arkansas and at the federal level to turn the tide on this sweeping problem.

Prescription drug abuse is the fastest growing drug problem in the country. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Arkansas is one of 12 states with more painkiller prescriptions than people. I’m committed to stopping the cycle of addiction and so are law enforcement agencies in Arkansas. That’s why I joined the Benton Police Department during “Operation Medicine Cabinet XII” to collect unused prescription medication. 

Eliminating expired and unwanted prescription drugs from our homes will prevent pills from getting in the hands of abusers and help break the cycle of addiction.

More than 130 law enforcement agencies participated in the Arkansas Take Back in late April. The goal of this statewide initiative is to prevent prescription drug abuse and misuse. Drug take back events are making a difference by decreasing the availability of unnecessary prescription drugs and properly disposing of expired and unneeded medication. Across Arkansas 25,289 pounds of prescription drugs were collected, including 1,245 pounds of medication from the Benton Police drop off sites, setting a new record for the community and state-wide collection.

I understand the need for a comprehensive approach to combat prescription drug abuse. My colleagues and I in the Senate are taking action to reverse the trend of prescription drug abuse.

As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I helped secure funding to address this epidemic in order to provide communities with the tools they need to improve response to addiction, promote treatment and support recovery.

In March, I supported the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, legislation that overwhelmingly passed the Senate. This legislation provides a series of incentives and resources designed to encourage states and local communities to pursue proven strategies to combat addiction and support individuals in recovery including expanding drug take back programs. This bill can help give communities the ability to combat the growing opioid epidemic in Arkansas and across the country.

The legislation also authorizes the Attorney General to award grants to Veterans Treatment Courts. I’ve seen firsthand the impact of the drug courts in Arkansas and how veterans and other citizens enrolled in the program turn their lives around. These courts offer Arkansas’s drug-addicted, non-violent offenders an alternative to jail while rehabilitating them through a strenuous treatment program. This is an investment for a healthy future for Arkansans.

We have the tools to combat addiction. I’m committed to providing law enforcement, the judicial system and families with the opportunity to succeed in fight against prescription drug abuse.