Projects to combat opioid painkiller abuse eligible for partnership funding


By Sen. Larry Teague

Funds are actually available from the settlement of an enormous lawsuit against opioid distributors, and can be awarded to projects which have demonstrated effectiveness in combating the abuse of painkillers.

The Arkansas Opioid Recovery Partnership has arrange an internet site with details about tips on how to apply. It has an advisory board that can review applications. The Partnership’s director previously served as state Drug Director for five years.

The Partnership is a combined effort of the Arkansas Association of Counties and the Arkansas Municipal League, which joined within the litigation against opioid distributors.

Arkansas was awarded $216 million within the settlement. That cash can be divided evenly between cities, counties and the state and can be step by step paid out over the subsequent 18 years. 

The settlement was announced a yr ago, after 4 years of litigation that resulted in a $26 billion settlement that can be distributed nationally.

Thus far, Arkansas has received about $10 million from the primary stage of the settlement. At a recent news conference the Partnership director said that more settlements with other pharmaceutical firms may increase the entire amount Arkansas gets from lawsuits over opioid sales.

The meting out rate for opioids may be very high in Arkansas. In Arkansas in 2022, for each 100 people within the state greater than 80 prescriptions were filled. That’s an improvement over 2018, when greater than 93 prescriptions for painkillers were prescribed for each 100 Arkansas residents.

The meting out rate was even higher in some counties. In 2018, in Garland County 126 prescriptions were distributed for each 100 residents.

The number of people that have died from an overdose increased from 180 in 2019 to 261 in 2020 and 371 in 2021.

The fatal overdoses will not be caused just by abuse of illegal drugs, but are commonly from abuse of legal prescriptions. Arkansas is second within the nation, behind Alabama, within the overprescribing of prescription opioids.

After states and native governments joined in lawsuits against major drug firms, the prescribing of opioids tapered off between 2012 and 2020, when meting out rates fell to the bottom level in 15 years. 

Nonetheless, even after the decline, 3.6 percent of all counties in the US had a meting out rate of multiple prescription of painkiller for every resident within the county.

Nationwide, the meting out rate has gone down from a peak in 2012 of 81.3 prescriptions for each 100 people. In 2020 the national rate was 43.3 prescriptions for each 100 people.

One announced goal of the Partnership is to make Naloxone more available amongst first responders and groups that work to abate opioid abuse. It’s a drug that reverses the results of an overdose. 

The 12-member advisory board includes a faculty board president, a county judge, a mayor, a physician whose specialty is pain medicine, a retired police chief, sheriff, a grant author, staff and former staff of opioid abatement projects and an attorney knowledgeable in regards to the settlement of the opioid lawsuit.

The board also has representatives from the Municipal League and the Association of Arkansas Counties.

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