which we had grown accustomed. It was the right response at the right time to a crisis our

country faced, but in Arkansas there was always something about the reality of inner city drug trafficking and back-alley dealing we couldn’t relate to. Now, however, a very dangerous curve has occurred in drug abuse.

We have gone from black-market drug trade under the

cover of night’s darkness to an epidemic unlike any other in which drug companies and distributors have played a role in handing out extremely addictive opioid prescriptions in the trusted vestiges of hospitals and doctors’ offices.

Opioids have always been

around, but they historically had been used medically for short periods of time for acute pain relief. In the late ‘90s and moving forward, the drug manufacturers used shaky data and new time- release forms of opioids to launch an explosion in opioid sales under the false premise they would now be safe for chronic pain relief. Tey argued the addic- tive qualities would not exist with time-release forms of the medication. Opioid manufacturers and distributors also have intentionally misinformed the medical community and general public in other ways, all designed to increase their bottom line.


Tis flooded the market with opioid medication without an honest appraisal that the addictive qualities were still there. As a result, we now find many people in Arkansas hooked on an addictive drug that was never marketed hon- estly. And, most dangerous, is that when this supply cuts off for individual users the best black-market drug available to satisfy the opioid craving is heroin.

Sadly for Arkansas, this epidemic has hit us harder than any other drug epidemic of the past. We rank second — yes, second — only to Alabama in the number of prescriptions for opioids per capita in the country. We have not skirted this problem; we have landed dead center in the middle. For some time now our jails have been full, our county hospitals have been unable to keep up, and our sheriffs’ deputies have been overworked because of this local impact.

Worse yet, many of you know first-hand of someone in

your family or someone in your work family who is battling this addiction. Te physiological attributes of an opioid ad- diction are such that some who take opioids don’t become


addicted, but others do. Tere is a cruel randomness about it that means no predictors can help weed out those who should and should not take it.

Tere are many facts and much information regarding the opioid epidemic, and I encourage you all to take a look at “A Prescription for Action,” a joint National League of Cities and National Association of Counties report. We have linked to this report on the home page of our web site. It is short and easy to read and will give you great insight into the scope of this problem.

here is one key component of heal- ing our state’s opioid epidemic:

communication of the problem. ”

On Sunday mornings at church, it’s always good to listen to a sermon. I often find myself conveniently — but wrongly — thinking about all the other people I know with the affliction the pas- tor is preaching about. Tat is until he gets to the action points — my action points. Inevitably there are steps I need to take. And some are uncomfortable.

Tere is one key compo- nent of healing our state’s opioid epidemic: communi-

cation of the problem. So back to what I first mentioned. You are elected in your counties. You are voices that are listened to. Many in your communities are addicted to opioids and ashamed to talk about it. But if you come forward with the end goal of communicating the problem, you just may give someone somewhere the comfort to share their problem and how it is affecting them or their family. Tis is step No. 1 in dealing with this epidemic, and as county leaders you are in ex- tremely important positions to raise this topic to the forefront and lead the critically important conversation we must have.

I am reminded of a parable in Luke that every official should heed. In Luke 12:48 it is said, “To whomever much is given, of him will much be required; and to whom much was entrusted, of him more will be asked.”

Tis problem cuts across all demographics and levels of

government and cannot be solved without a response that also cuts across all boundaries. We have begun providing the information necessary for county and district officials to be- gin this conversation locally. We will continue to provide you tools, so you can lead the conversation. As communications from us roll out, I want to encourage your activism. You have to begin with this process by knowing that just having the discussion is a win — and you are in the perfect positions to start down the road of healing.


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