NORTHWEST ARKANSAS, (KNWA/KFTA) — Arkansas taking steps to combat the opioid epidemic that continues to impact communities throughout the natural state.

Every year, hundreds of people die from a drug overdose in Arkansas and according to the CDC, that number continues to go up. A new state law will protect patients from accidental overdoses.

It’s called Act 651. It requires health professionals who prescribe opioids to also prescribe an opioid overdose reversal medication like naloxone, in certain cases.

For example, if the opioid dosage the patient is getting is over 50 morphine milligram per day or if the patient has a history of opioid use disorder or drug overdose.

Co-Founder of the Matt Adams Foundation for opioid recovery, Brittany Kelly says it’s important that folks have access to this life-saving medication.

“When you think of an opioid overdose or just an overdose in general you think of someone who is in active addiction., but these numbers we have also include senior citizens who take too many and they also include kids who may have gotten into the medication cabinets,” said Kelly.

Data from the CDC shows between July 2019 to July 2020 there were over 450 drug overdose-related deaths in the state. That’s up to 20-percent from the previous year. Arkansas also ranks number 2 in the nation in overprescribing opioid medications.

Kelly says she started the Matt Adams Foundation after her brother Matt died of a drug overdose. Since the non-profit got up and running in 2017, it has given out over 5000 naloxone opioid overdose reversal kits and it trained just as many people to use it.

The foundation also work with police and first responders across the state to educate folks about the stigmas associated with drug use.

“We don’t know if it started from a prescription, we don’t know if it was peer pressure, we don’t know if it was a go out and try it kind of thing. We don’t know how they became addicted but it doesn’t matter at the end we need to teach compassion and we need to show compassion because that is what they need to get to recovery,” said Kelly.

Signs to look for to identify an overdose include; the individual is unresponsive, breathing slowly, fingernails and lip are turning blu or purplish, to name a few.

Kelly says someone experiencing an overdose can die within minutes and you need to act fast.

She recommends folks who have a loved one who suffers from drug addiction have naloxone on hand in case of an emergency and you can get it from the Matt Adams Foundation.

The organizations also works to connect patients to treatment centers and transitional programs

Lawmakers say health care professionals are in the best position to counsel at-risk patients and hopes this law will help curb the number of deadly overdoses in the state.

The law will go into effect at end of the next month.