Crawford County Is ‘High-Risk’ For Overdose Deaths

CRAWFORD COUNTY (KFSM) -- Crawford County is at a high-risk for overdose deaths, a study reveals.

As a result, community leaders and law enforcement are quickly reacting, hoping to find a solution.

From finding ways to educate residents, to making emergency overdose medicine available, many groups in the county are participating in an aggressive effort to fix the on-going opioid issue.

"It's not just buying and selling drugs. Also when people are addicted to these kinds of drugs, they steal things from loved ones, so it affects more people than just the people who are consuming them," " Chief Jamie Hammond with the Van Buren Police Department said. "

Law enforcement, educators and first responders took part in Crawford County's Opioid Education Summit this week, and 23 people signed up to join a new advisory council to take the efforts a step further.

"(We will) take a broad look at our community, not just trying to plant gardens, but also dig into the opioid abuse and drug abuse problems to help our students and our families," Dr. Lonnie Myers, Mulberry and Pleasant View Bi-County School District superintendent said.

Hammond said personal stories shared during the summit caught his attention, and his officers will soon be using Narcan, which is an antidote for overdoses.

"The short answer is it could save someone's life," Hammond said. "All of our staff, all of our patrol officers and detectives have been trained. We have developed a police on how to use Narcan."

According to the CDC, in 2016 alone, 401 people died of drug overdoses in Arkansas. The new advisory council is working to lower that number -- starting with Crawford County.

"We will try to garner some support and some publicity to get this information out county-wide so that every corner of our county has information going out and support families and our schools and any way to support the efforts to combat this opioid problem," Myers said.

Myers added that he and officials with the University of Arkansas Criminal Justice Institute will meet in the coming weeks to put a clearer plan in place for the advisory council.

Volunteers for the advisory council will also be taking a look at how to educate students in the county who are affected by opioid use.