OPIOID CRISIS: State program targets county

Opioid addiction rates in Arkansas will likely get worse, summit panelists say.

By Lara Farrar
The Sentinel-Record

Garland County has been selected as a target area for an education and prevention program aimed at decreasing the number of deaths caused by opioid overdoses.

The drug overdose prevention death program, organized by the University of Arkansas System's Criminal Justice Institute and the Arkansas state drug director's office, kicked off with a summit Tuesday at CHI St. Vincent Hot Springs.

Panelists expressed concern that opioid addiction rates in Arkansas will likely get worse, especially as more states in the region are seeing higher numbers of not only addiction but also deaths from the abuse of prescription drugs, heroin and fentanyl, a synthetic opioid up to 100 times as potent as heroin.

Via the analysis of specific variables, program administrators identified counties in the state most at-risk for overdose deaths, opiate-related arrests, treatment admissions and opioid distribution by prescription. Garland County ranked among the top. Other counties selected for the program include Marion, Baxter, Crawford, Franklin, Sebastian and Scott.

In 2016, Arkansas had around 400 deaths from opioid overdoses, a figure likely twice as high due to underreporting by coroners, Kirk Lane, Arkansas state drug director, said.

That same year, the state ranked second in the United States in terms of the number of prescriptions given out per 100 people. The national average in 2016 was 66.5 prescriptions per 100 people. In Arkansas, that figure was 114.6 per 100. In Garland County, the figure jumped to 176.3. Read more.

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