Weekly Columns

The opioid crisis has had a widespread and destructive impact on our state and entire country, which is why we’re working together to fight back. State and local leaders are investing in prevention and treatment efforts while nonprofit organizations have mobilized with the same goal of delivering help and ending the cycle of addiction. 

In rural states where people live far from treatment centers, accessibility is a key factor. Efforts are underway in Arkansas to bring care to patients where they live. Arkansas Mobile Opioid Recovery launched its health clinic earlier this month to deliver critical services to individuals struggling with addiction in areas with limited resources.

It’s ready to hit the road and help beginning on a rotating basis in Malvern, Danville and Morrilton. The idea was sparked by community partners who recognized the need in underserved neighborhoods and found a practical way to provide care. I am hopeful it will be successful and inspire similar outreach in other areas of the state. 

Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin approved a grant for this project with money from the state’s opioid settlement. He is responsible for disbursing these funds and has backed a number of other measures to fight the opioid epidemic including awarding $50 million to Arkansas Children’s to establish the nation’s first research center to study opioid effects in infants and kids.

The National Center for Opioid Research & Clinical Effectiveness will play a critical role in developing preventative measures and therapies to combat the impact of opioids on developing brains.  

The need for this center is clear. Young children are increasingly falling victim to accidental ingestions at an alarming rate. The National Institutes of Health reports opioids are the most common cause of fatal poisonings in children one to four-years-old, making identifying and evaluating the signs of overdose even more urgent to be able to treat these vulnerable individuals. 

There is a role for us all to play to prevent children and adults from accessing harmful prescriptions. Drug take-back programs have proven effective in getting legal prescription drugs off the streets and out of the hands of friends, family and neighbors who might misuse them either deliberately or unintentionally. 

As a longtime advocate for the Arkansas Drug Take Back program, I’m proud to see how Natural State residents are supporting this cause and taking action to get expired or unused medications out of homes.

This is an important step that has resulted in the disposal of more than 290 tons of medications in Arkansas.

We’re looking to build on this momentum during Arkansas Take Back Day on April 27. It’s easy to join this effort with more than 300 sites statewide collecting prescription drugs. To find a convenient Take Back site visit www.artakeback.org.

To learn more about how to monitor, secure and dispose of medications, the new ReviveAR app available on smart phones is a good resource that also provides access to prevention, treatment and recovery tools available in our state.

We remain committed to eliminating the threat of opioid-related overdoses. Let's work together to tackle the opioid epidemic head-on and prevent potentially dangerous medications from being abused so we can curb this crisis and save lives.