Saline County Judge Jeff Arey (left) and Pulaski County Coroner Gerone Hobbs are two of six members of an opioid task force AAC has formed. The task force believes the first steps in combating the opioid epidemic in Arkansas counties is to educate the public about the dangers of opioids and to provide opioid inhibitors such as Naloxone to first responders. In this photo, Hobbs discusses the growing number of drug overdose deaths.

AAC forms Opioid Task Force to combat epidemic

Story by Christy L. Smith Photo by Holland Doran AAC Communications Team

Gerone Hobbs, Saline County Judge Jeff Arey, Union County Sheriff Ricky Roberts, Sebastian County Sheriff Bill Hollen- beck, Washington County Circuit Clerk Kyle Sylvester and Craighead County Treasurer Terry McNatt. “Te costs to our society are incredibly high and for coun- ties, the societal impact directly impacts our bottom line in jail costs, clogged courtrooms and extra law enforcement on the streets,” said AAC Executive Director Chris Villines. “We know that if our counties stand together, we can respond to this crisis in an organized, cohesive fashion.” Te task force held its first meeting on Monday, Oct. 9, 2017. Members discussed the opioid epidemic from nation-

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o address the rising incidence of heroin and opi- oid addiction and fatal overdoses in Arkansas, the Association of Arkansas Counties (AAC) has formed a six-member Opioid Task Force.

Te task force is comprised of Pulaski County Coroner

wide, statewide and local perspectives. Specific topics includ- ed the success rate of the state’s drug take-back program, the pervasiveness of heroin and fentanyl in Arkansas, scheduled updates to the state’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, and local law enforcement’s and first responders’ lack of access to Naloxone, an opiate antagonist that will reverse an opioid overdose and allow a person to breathe during an overdose sit- uation. It gives a first responder time to seek lifesaving medical attention for the victim. Te task force set two initial goals: to create an educational

program that will increase the public’s awareness of the dan- gers of opioids and to help first responders gain access to the training and Naloxone they need to manage an opioid over- dose. Te task force also voted to support county efforts to puruse litigation against pharmaceutical companies. “Counties have spent tax payer money — an inordinate amount of money — dealing with the problem that the drug manufacturers have created. Tey started telling people out there that all of a sudden these opioids are no longer addictive for chronic pain because they are time released. Tey did not have the data to back that up,” Villines said at a recent meeting


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