Mississippi mental health and medical professionals are working to come up with a statewide plan to combat opioid abuse. MPB's Desare Frazier reports.
About 50 people are spending the day at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum in Jackson, to compile the best approaches to fighting the opioid epidemic. Dr. Randy Easterling, an addiction specialist and a member of the state board of medical licensure talked about his concerns.
"Availability of treatment, trying to teach providers to be more judicious in prescribing opioids and that's an education process and also informing the public just how dangerous these drugs are," said Easterling.
Easterling says the number of opioids prescribed has decreased over the past 5 years by 10 percent in the state. But he says last year doctors still wrote more than 3.3 million opioid prescriptions.
"We've ever seen anything like this I think in the history of medicine," said Easterling.
That's why medical and mental health professionals, state agencies and organizations are at this summit, to discuss the challenges, barriers to treatment and what's working. Wendy Bailey is with the Mississippi Department of Mental Health. She says last year 256 people died of opioid overdoses. Bailey says they've held 19 town halls around the state.
"We're seeing positive results I think from the town hall meetings, more people being educated and understanding, seeing those decrease in the number of prescriptions, that maybe you don't have to have the prescription pain medicine and people choosing okay I will try another pain option," said Bailey.
Bailey say educating people is critical. She adds everyone involved in the fight is sharing information and resources. Bailey says they're taking everything they discuss here and creating a statewide plan for opioid overdose prevention.