Training is underway for officers to use a drug to reverse opioid overdoses. It's one of the recommendations released by a task force to fight the epidemic. MPB's Desare Frazier takes a look at other suggestions on the list.
The Governor's Opioid and Heroin Study Task Force recently released 41 recommendations to combat opioid abuse. In Mississippi, between 2013 and 2016, 481 drug overdose deaths involved opioids. Suggestions include reducing opioid prescriptions to a 3-day supply, with exceptions, and requiring continuing education for medical provicers. Task force member, Dr. Claude Brunson, says some recommendations can be implemented now, like requiring providers check the online prescription monitoring program.
"Those boards ought to go ahead on and pass regulations that do certain things, such as requiring that their providers who have a DEA and can prescribe these drugs that they check the PMP and it be mandatory that they check the PMP," said Dr. Brunson.
Through a federal grant the Mississippi Department of Mental Health has begun training Department of Public Safety officers on how to use Naloxone, a drug that reverses opioid overdoses. The kits also protect officers if exposed to heroin or fentanyl, a potent opioid. Suggestions like tougher penalties for drug dealers and funding treatment will take time. Joshua Horton is on the task force and says many facilities only take those with insurance.
"If you're really in active addiction and you've been suffering from the disease for a while, your chances of having healthcare and slim to none," said Horton.
A series of state agency budget cuts has led to the Mississippi Department of Mental Health reducing its staff by more than 500 workers and closing a male treatment facility. Dr. Claude Brunson says the task force's goal is to have treatment costs covered by all insurers and Medicaid.