An official with the Arkansas Foundation for Medical Care cited Crawford County as "high-risk" for potential opioid overdose deaths Wednesday.
Kent Thompson, an analyst with the Arkansas Foundation for Medical Care, cited a foundation study that put Crawford County in the top 10 Arkansas counties for potential opioid overdose deaths. The study was presented at Crawford County's Opioid Education Summit, which brought county law enforcement, medical and educational personnel together with state officials midday Wednesday at the Mulberry Community Center.
"It's a problem that's growing very quickly and moving into the state very quickly,” Arkansas Drug Director Kirk Lane said at the summit.
The foundation study listed opioid arrests, treatment admissions, diagnoses on hospital inpatient discharges, diagnoses on emergency department discharges and distribution by prescription as the five most influential indicators for opioid overdose deaths.
At 2.8, Crawford County had the highest opioid diagnoses presence on Arkansas inpatient discharges per 1,000 residents in 2013, according to the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project. It was also the seventh-highest county for opioid prescriptions per 100 people in 2016 at 158, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Crawford County had 16.3 drug overdose deaths per 100,000 people in 2016, according to the Arkansas State Crime Lab.
"We see that we have an epidemic," Arkansas Prescription Drug Overdose Death Prevention Project Director Michelle Young-Hobbs said at the summit. Numbers compiled in the study have been used in Young-Hobbs' Project.
Statewide, Arkansas averaged 114.6 prescription painkillers for every 100 people in 2016, according to Lane. Lane said the national average for that period of time was 66.5 painkillers for every 100 people.
"We have some counties that are in the 150s for painkiller prescriptions for every 100 people," Lane said.
Lane also said he has seen an increase in statewide overdose deaths "in the last 60 to 75 days." He explained that opioid users often become addicted to painkillers such as hydrocodone and oxycodone, and then move to heroin and fentanyl in search of a greater high at a cheaper cost.
Nationally, 63,600 people died from overdoses in 2016, according to Lane.
"They’re saying 2017 numbers are going to be even worse," Cheryl May, director of the Arkansas Criminal Justice Institute, said. "Not all of these are because of opioids, but a very, very large percentage of them are."
Young-Hobbs said her personnel have responded to these numbers by giving law enforcement agencies in Crawford and Franklin counties a Prescription Drug Overdose grant. The grant was implemented in September 2016 and equips first responders with naloxone, which counteracts opioid overdose effects.
Personnel with the Criminal Justice Institute, which has been contracted to help in the project, have trained 111 first responders in Crawford County on how to use the counteracting agent, according to May.
May said her personnel will also train the staff at treatment facilities in how to train family members of recovering opioid addicts.
"Individuals coming out of recovery are at increased risk of overdosing," May said. "The idea is to get naloxone as close to these individuals as we can."
Hobbs said she hopes the numbers Thompson shows in five years' time show that they've reduced the number of opioid-related deaths, both in Crawford County and in Arkansas.
“None of us, individually, can solve this issue," May said. "We all have to roll up our sleeves and make a conscious effort."