HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today welcomed nearly 1,300 people from throughout Arkansas and 14 states to the eighth annual Arkansas Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Summit at the Hot Springs Convention Center.
The Summit served as a free training and educational opportunity for law enforcement officers, medical professionals, treatment specialists, pharmacists and educators. Participants heard from experts regarding prescription drug abuse training, prevention and treatment.
“As this event grows, it proves Arkansas’s nationally renowned work combating the opioid crisis is having an impact,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Each year, this Summit expands the collaborative effort between federal, State and local resources, and by working together, I am confident we will continue to save lives and curb this crisis.”
Due to illness, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was unable to keynote the Summit luncheon. Jerry C. Jones graciously filled in sharing his inspiring and heartfelt story, motivating us to continue to advance our work in protecting and serving all Arkansans.
Those who gathered for the all-day Summit heard remarks from the Attorney General, Governor Asa Hutchinson and U.S Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas Dak Kees. Breakout sessions were held on safe and effective alleviation of pain, dangerous drug combinations, neonatal abstinence and life in recovery.
The afternoon sessions included Naloxone co-prescribing educational training, tactical diversion, opioid prevention efforts and statewide advances in peer recovery.
Plenary sessions included a presentation about drug-endangered children by Dr. Cheryl May, Director of the Criminal Justice Institute and Thornton, Colorado Police Department Sgt. Jim Gerhardt. The day was closed out discussing overcoming the stigma with speakers Jimmy McGill, State Opioid Response Coordinator with the Division of Behavior Health, Gina Allgaier, Executive Director of Speakup About Drugs, Chris Dickie, CEO of Natural State Recovery Centers and Paula Cunningham whose family was impacted by the opioid crisis.
The Attorney General’s Office also partners with local law enforcement to host take back events at mobile offices around the State. Since 2016, 620 pounds of prescription drugs have been collected and safely disposed of– keeping them out of the hands of children and those with addictions.
Rutledge has taken a multi-faceted approach of education, prevention and litigation to end the opioid crisis. In 2018, Rutledge filed a lawsuit against opioid manufacturers that created the crisis in Arkansas for violations of the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act (ADTPA) and the Arkansas Medicaid Fraud False Claims Act. In April 2019, Rutledge filed a separate lawsuit against distributors Cardinal Health, McKesson Corporation and AmerisourceBergen Drug Corporation for violations of the ADTPA as well as for negligence, creation of a public nuisance and being unjustly enriched by their business practices.
On the educational front, Rutledge’s first-in-the-nation Prescription for Life program is offered at no cost to all high school students in the State to help them understand the dangers of prescription drug misuse and how to prevent abuse. To date, the program has reached 73 counties and almost 18,900 students.
In addition to Attorney General Rutledge, the Summit is sponsored by the Arkansas Board of Pharmacy, the Arkansas Drug Director’s Office and the University of Arkansas System’s Criminal Justice Institute. Other partners include the Arkansas Alcohol Drug Coordinating Council, Arkansas Association of Chiefs of Police, Arkansas Department of Health, Arkansas Department of Human Services, Arkansas Division of Behavioral Health Services, Arkansas Medical Board, Arkansas National Guard, Arkansas National Guard Counterdrug Program, Arkansas State Board of Nursing, Arkansas Prevention Network, Arkansas Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Gulf Coast HIDTA, National Association of Boards of Pharmacy Foundation, University of Arkansas at Little Rock MidSOUTH Center for Prevention and Training, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.