There is a rapidly growing prescription drug and opioid abuse problem in Arkansas and there is no "silver bullet" to solve it, Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said Tuesday.
Addressing members of the Arkansas Association of Chiefs of Police at their annual convention, which is being held through Thursday at the Hot Springs Convention Center, Rutledge said, "There's not one thing that will stop this epidemic in our state."
Rutledge said a prescription drug summit is planned for Nov. 9 in Hot Springs to address the issue, and she urged the police chiefs to attend. "I'm not telling you anything new to say we have a prescription drug epidemic. You're the ones answering the overdose calls." She noted Gov. Asa Hutchinson has announced the use of more Narcan, an emergency treatment for opioid overdose, being available in the state.
She said a new program, "Prescription for Life," is being used in the schools directed at students in grades 9-12 to try to educate them on the dangers of using and misusing prescription drugs, noting they recently held the programs in Fort Smith and Jonesboro. The 30-minute program is funded by the attorney general's office.
"None of us would have considered going to our grandparents' or our parents' house and seeing those pills on the kitchen counter -- let's face it, that's where people keep their pills now; medicine cabinets went out with the '70s -- and thought about taking the pills or taking them to school. But sadly, that's what kids do now," she said.
"We have to teach them about the dangers, get our SROs (school resource officers) in the schools to talk to them. We're also looking at how the insurance companies and doctors are prescribing medications at astronomical rates. The responsibility falls on the drug companies, too, who are making billions of dollars having it more accessible."
Rutledge said there has been a rise in heroin and fentanyl stemming from the epidemic. "It's killing our youth and people in their 20s and 30s. I never used to read the obits growing up, but now I find myself reading them every day and when I see someone in their 20s or even their 40s who died I generally know they lost a battle with cancer or a battle with an addiction. We have to do more and work together on this to curb the epidemic," she said.
She said it was also important to work with other states, especially surrounding states, and to seek federal help as needed. "I have a great relationship with the White House now," she said.
Rutledge said President Donald Trump has signed two law enforcement bills, including one to increase funding for training military veterans as police officers. "We have an entire group of people who leave the military with great skill sets who want to continue in public service. They are ready to serve their states and now there is more funding to allow for that."
The other bill would decrease the amount of time it takes for injured officers or the families of fallen officers to receive their benefits. "They need those benefits now. The families of those great men and women who have lost their lives need those resources," she said.
"It's an honor to have a president who recognizes what you all do every single day.
"You now have those in powerful positions with a loud voice who are speaking out for you," she said.Local on 09/27/2017
Print Headline: Rutledge discusses opioids