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Opioid Summit Promotes Community Collaboration To Reduce Drug Epidemic in Arkansas

SEBASTIAN COUNTY (KFSM) -- Sebastian County is taking a more aggressive approach to fight the opioid epidemic through the help of its newly-launched Sebastian County Opioid Task Force. Members of the task force said it started about four months ago by Sebastian County Sheriff Bill Hollenbeck.

On Wednesday, it held its first summit at the University of Arkansas Fort Smith. Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge and State Drug Director Kirk Lane were in attendance, among others, to discuss opioid problems that exist in the county and across the state, as well as solutions to clamp down on the problem.

“It’s so multi-faceted, the problem; You need multi-faceted solutions from all angles,” Lane explained.

Lane and other leaders stressed the importance of the community coming together and taking a more collaborative approach to the epidemic at hand.

The State of Arkansas has launched multiple initiatives in recent years that have proved to yield positive results such as the Arkansas Take Back program.

More recently, 3,300 hundred Naloxone (Narcan) tool kits were distributed to first responders statewide.

To date, Lane says 104 lives have been saved since its start. Lane added that every life saved is another chance to turn their life around.

It’s not only a matter that first responders can do something about, Attorney General Leslie Rutledge says the power to incite change is within all of us.

“It’s imperative that each family, each person in Arkansas, take it into their own hands to address the problem,” said Rutledge.

She added that cleaning out medicine cabinets and talking to your children about prescription drugs are helpful steps.

The event also included a personal element with speaker Jimmy McGill. He tells 5NEWS that he’s been clean for three years, three months, and 24 days.

“I went through the fire, and I came out of the fire refined,” McGill said.

During that time, McGill has been speaking candidly about his recovery, and he tries to reach men and women struggling from drug addiction now.

Several medical professionals from Mercy Hospital and the state medical board were part of a panel discussion.

Summit members say they plan to host more events like this in the future.