Initiative Aims to Reduce Opioid Overdoses


Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced a new initiative today to reduce opioid overdose deaths in Arkansas. 

Naloxone is an injection or nasal spray used to block or reverse an opioid overdose. 

Arkansas has seen an increase in opioid-related deaths over the past several years, but the problem isn’t as severe as in other parts of the country. 

Emergency crews in Northwest Arkansas are still taking action to deal with the issue. 

“I wouldn’t say it’s an epidemic but it’s definitely a problem,” said Sgt. Anthony Murphy of the Fayetteville Police Department. 

Since Jan. 1 of this year, Central EMS has responded to about 50 calls involving opioid overdoses. Police are often also called to the scene. 

“Prescription pills are very prominent in our community…a lot of people have them, a lot of people have them for legitimate reasons and a lot of people have them for non-legitimate reasons,” Sgt. Murphy said. 

A recent study shows Arkansas’ opioid problem claimed nearly 400 lives in 2015. That same year, Ohio and Pennsylvania both saw more than 3,000 opioid overdose deaths. 

“Across the country they’re seeing a much higher incidence of overdoses than we are in our region,” said Tammy East, the quality improvement coordinator for Central EMS. 

Central EMS knows this is an epidemic that could hit Arkansas at any time. 

“We’ve worked in conjunction with rural fire departments…and police departments to be further prepared for that type of situation in case it comes our way,” East said.  

Whether learning how to provide proper emergency care to a patient or strengthening the relationships between emergency crews, the goal of first responders in Northwest Arkansas is to prevent the opioid problem from becoming an epidemic. 
“This opioid crisis is no respecter of persons and so it can travel…it can be something that happens in our area as well and that’s why we’re taking steps to be prepared ahead of time,” East said. 
“If we can prevent any death from occurring, that’s a great step,” Sgt. Murphy said. 

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