Round table on opioids planned; information to share on how to help

A community roundtable on the opioid epidemic is due to be held this Thursday, and key crisis fighters hope to educate local residents about recognizing and responding to drug overdoses.

According to the Arkansas Department of Social Services, in 2021 there were 211 opioid-related deaths in Arkansas. In 2022, 2.19 Arkansans per 100,000 people in the state overdosed on opioids but did not die from it, according to the Arkansas DHS.

“It’s not something particularly new; it’s getting a lot more attention now, rightly so, but it’s something that’s always been around since I’ve been in law enforcement,” said Captain Jeff Stinson, chief investigator at Union County. Sheriff’s office. “It probably started in the early 2000s, due to over-prescribing. It’s been curbed somewhat, but now people are buying off the street.”

Stinson and UCSO Chief Deputy Charlie Phillips will be at the roundtable this week, along with House Speaker Matthew Shepherd, representatives from the University of Arkansas Criminal Justice Institute (CJI) , the Arkansas Foundation for Medical Care (AFMC), the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA), Arkansas DHS, and the Office of the State Drug Director.

Latrese Atkins, community prescription drug overdose liaison for CJI, said those leading the discussion will share information about resources available to address drug addiction and deaths.

“The data shows — (data) from the AFMC — Union County is a high-risk area for prescription drug abuse, for opioid overdoses,” Atkins said. “We want to educate the county, make sure all first responders and families know where they can get resources.”

Narcan kits will also be available, Atkins said.

“Narcan is a life-saving drug,” she said. “It’s kind of like Flonase; it’s given through the nasal cavity and it stops an overdose. It’s not harmful to anyone if they’re taking other drugs, only opioids. It revives a person – brings them back to life.”

According to the US Centers for Disease Control, Narcan – also known as naloxone – can stop many life-threatening effects of an opioid overdose, including restoring breathing and reversing sedation.

Union County Sheriff Ricky Roberts said that while UCSO does not currently have Narcan, he knows it has been used by the El Dorado Police Department to save lives. An EPD public information officer had not responded to a message requesting information about the department’s use of Narcan before press time.

Atkins said the main message she hopes local residents take away from the roundtable is “don’t run, call 911.”

“If you see an overdose, step in to help. We want to make sure naloxone is in everyone’s hands – family members, friends, those who have a direct impact on someone who is overdosing” , she said.

Roberts said waiting to see a doctor for someone with an overdose can be deadly.

“It reminds me of a case a few years ago. A young man overdosed, his friends didn’t know what to do, drove him into town… Eventually they took him to a house and a young woman saw what was happening and called 911. They took him to the hospital, at which point he succumbed to his overdose, which is a tragedy in itself, but it could have been avoided,” he said. “If someone is out there and they overdose, let’s get them the medical attention they need and we’ll worry about whatever comes next. We’re not automatically going to seek arrests or anything.”

Stinson said he also plans to address prevention at Thursday’s meeting.

“It’s a consumer-driven problem. You have the people who oversell and the people who over-prescribe, although it’s not as prevalent as before. But as a community, as a family, as a ‘friends, we have to do a better job of understanding the danger,” he said. “Wherever there is demand, there are people who are going to step up to supply (opioids), so what we really have to attack, it’s the dangerous life or death situation.”

There is a high risk of illicit drugs being mixed with other fillers, which can sometimes be deadly on its own, Stinson said.

“When people buy them on the street, they get a squeezed pill that has filler and fentanyl in it… When you buy a pill that’s been squeezed by someone, they have no idea or even care about the amount of the active ingredient – in this case, fentanyl – goes into the product itself… If a consumer takes a pill containing 0.1% fentanyl, the next pill could contain 20% and that’s where we see a lot of overdoses,” Stinson said. “What they’re buying on the street, they don’t know what they’re getting. Compared to other ‘street drugs’, there’s this belief that they’re somehow less dangerous, but at end of the day, we see more hospitalizations and deaths from prescription opioids than anything else.”

Stinson said he hopes to get the message out Thursday that anyone can step in at any stage of a loved one’s drug addiction to help.

“One thing is to pay attention to what’s going on around them, with family, friends, co-workers – being aware of what’s going on in people’s lives and being ready to intervene,” he said. he declared. “Everyone needs to be an educator about this. Everyone needs to know the risk of what opioids pose and be honest about it, and also be honest with yourself, because there’s an addictive personality, and a something that’s not as risky for one person can create a lifelong habit for another person.”

Roberts said the post matches one he pleaded for, “if you see something, say something.”

“If you see something, don’t sit still. That’s life in general, whether they’re considering suicide, considering a mass shooting, whatever they do, if you see something, say something. Let’s take care of each other,” he said.

Thursday’s roundtable is scheduled from noon to 2 p.m. at the South Arkansas Community College Library, 300 Summit Ave. It is open to the public and will also be streamed live at facebook.com/ArkansasOverdoseProgram.

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