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Mississippi heatlh and law officials working to curb opioid epidemic in the state
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A protester gathers containers that look like OxyContin bottles at an anti-opioid demonstration in front of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services headquarters in Washington on April 5, 2019.
AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File

Mississippi law enforcement is partnering with medical and pharmaceutical organizations to continue fighting the state’s opioid epidemic. Experts say this multi-agency partnership can help save lives and reduce drug abuse across the state.

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Pharmacists, law enforcement and health advocates are working together to help curb the opioid epidemic in Mississippi. For every 100 Mississippians, 64 retail opioid prescriptions are dispensed annually in the state according to the CDC. Yesterday, a federal jury in Ohio found 3 of the nation’s largest pharmacy chains, CVS, Walgreens and Walmart, liable for contributing to the opioid crisis.

Colonel Steven Maxwell, Director of the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics, says 520 Mississippians overdosed from opioid use last year, including deaths related to illegal narcotics as well as prescription drugs. He says his office is forming partnerships outside of law enforcement to help reduce the risk of opioid abuse in the state.

“There is a correlation between mental health, behavioral health, and substance abuse disorder. We also can draw a direct nexus to violent crime,” says Colonel Maxwell. “Now we’re working with agencies like the Mississippi Department of [Mental] Health, Public Health Institute, and various other non-profit organizations with the goal of raising the conscious awareness of the public.”

Pharmacists are also assisting in efforts to curb the opioid epidemic. Todd Dear, Associate Director of the Mississippi Board of Pharmacy, says a pharmacist can decline to fulfill a prescription if they feel it could be dangerous for the patient.

“Even if something that’s not off [about the prescription], for multiple years we have had a standing order issued by the Department of Health that allows our pharmacists to go ahead and allowed for Naloxone to be dispensed in addition as well,” says Dear. “You know if someone is on an opioid, that is [reason] to make sure there is access to that prescription, so anybody can go into a pharmacy and request that.”

As more communities are affected by the opioid epidemic, more people are being trained to use Narcan, an overdose-reversing drug that can save lives.