U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams said he was “very impressed” with the work and progress being made in Arkansas in the effort to reduce effects of the opioid epidemic. Dr. Adams spoke with representatives of several state agencies, as well as a few pharmacy students from various universities in the state, at the Arkansas State Board of Pharmacy (ASBP) Offices on Thursday.
Dr. John Clay Kirtley, Executive Director of the ASBP, unveiled to Dr. Adams a new program called “Labels Save Lives” to further disseminate educational material about the opioid epidemic. Through the innovative program, blue labels will be placed on prescription bottles at pharmacies throughout the state guiding recipients of the prescriptions to log onto www.artakeback.org.
“As you will see on our labels, the message is clear: Protect our children. Dispose of your meds safely,” Dr. Kirtley said. “In this campaign, we are in the process of distributing 500,000 pharmacy auxiliary labels to pharmacies throughout the state to be used this month and lead people not only to our website, but to also be a flag of recognition for the Arkansas Prescription Drug Take Back Day that is being held in coordination with the national takeback day on April 28.”
[On April 28, nearly 200 locations across Arkansas will host a site for the Arkansas Prescription Drug Take Back Day from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in which people are encouraged to drop off expired or unneeded prescription drugs. These medications will later be destroyed in an environmentally safe manner.]
Dr. Adams was also updated on the status of the state’s naloxone program for first responders. Arkansas Drug Director Kirk Lane was not available for the meeting, but he sent information to Dr. Adams stating that, “We have more than 3,000 naloxone kits out to first responders in Arkansas, and there have been 64 lives saved since Jan. 1, 2018 with naloxone kits.”
Dr. Kirtley also talked about working with drug rehabilitation/treatment facilities to receive naloxone kits and training on the administration to their staff. He further said that the training needs to be extended to family members once a person is released from a treatment facility, in the event that a relapse and an overdose occurs.
U.S. Surgeon General Adams was also introduced to Dr. Cheryl May, director of the Criminal Justice Institute in Little Rock, who Dr. Kirtley said has been “a critical component to our success” in providing first responders with naloxone kits and with training.
“Dr. May has taken a distinct lead on educating law enforcement about the necessity for and appropriate use of naloxone in communities,” Dr. Kirtley said. “She has also been on the front line of combining courses co-taught with the DEA and ASBP on how to deal with opioid drug issues.”
Dr. May spoke with Dr. Adams about Opioid Prevention Education Kick Off summits that are being held in communities throughout the state, where local residents hear educational facts and statistics, as well as personal stories from local residents about the opioid epidemic plaguing the state. She also told Dr. Adams about her passion, plans and goals for helping Drug Endangered Children.
“There are so many epidemics within this [opioid] epidemic,” said U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams. “I think one thing we need to ask is, how can we build resiliency in communities? We have a real opportunity here if we grab it and seize it today.”
Those in attendance also heard personal stories from Dr. Adams, including that members of his own family have been affected by the opioid epidemic. He said he has a brother who is currently serving time in a Maryland state prison for a burglary sentence, which was prompted by a drug addiction. [Read more of this story here: https://www.statnews.com/2017/12/07/surgeon-general-and-his-brother/ ]
Dr. Adams told the crowd that he was very pleased with the work and efforts Arkansans are making toward reversing the opioid epidemic in the state, so much so, that he plans to have his own staff mirror pages he glanced over from a information packet provided to him. He also encouraged those in attendance to speak out if they see someone having a possible issue with opioid medications.
“If you see something, say something,” Dr. Adams said. “I also encourage everyone to urge people to carry naloxone. It’s asafe drug, a readily available drug in Arkansas, and a drug which can save a life.”
Others in attendance at the meeting included: Carlton Saffa, Office of Arkansas Governor senior strategist and Board of Pharmacy liaison; Kaushik Kotecha, Smith Drug Wholesale Company in Spartanburg (partner in Labels Saves Lives campaign); Laura Monteverdi, KTHV 11 news reporter; and Matt Burks, Office of Arkansas Drug Director media specialist.