The complex and changing nature of the opioid epidemic in the United States highlights the need for Arkansas to create an interdisciplinary, comprehensive, and cohesive public health approach to combat the state’s crisis. Like the rest of the nation, the misuse and abuse of prescription opioids remain a serious problem in Arkansas. Prescription opioids are still abundant for many in the state. In 2020, Arkansas ranked second in opioid prescriptions with 75.8 opioids prescribed per 100 people, compared to the United States rate of 43.3 per 100 people. In 2020, there were 546 overdose deaths in the state. The age-adjusted rate was 19.1 per 100,000 people. From 2017 to 2021, the rates of EMS naloxone administrations per 100,000 persons soared in almost every county. In the State’s Capital county, the administration went from 59 in 2017 to 171 in 2021. The Arkansas Overdose Data to Action in States Program (AODASP) within the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) will strive to ensure all Arkansans have access to a continuum of prevention, education, and substance misuse services and support within their communities. The intent of this program is to cultivate state and local relationships to ensure the prevention of substance use disorder and a reduction of overdose deaths by strengthening surveillance, prevention, and access to treatment statewide. To do this, ADH will:
a) Increase capacity to conduct epidemiologic and surveillance activities for licit and illicit drug and other comorbidities by hiring additional epidemiologists to integrate data sources pertinent to licit and illicit drug overdose and associated comorbidities into ESSENCE; develop periodic epidemiologic profiles and surveillance reports on opioid and other drug use.
b) Collect and disseminate timely data from emergency departments and hospital admissions for suspected overdoses.
c) Collect comprehensive drug overdose death circumstances via SUDORS and translate findings into prevention strategies by disseminating useful, actionable data to guide, support and improve local, state, and national overdose death policies, programs, and practices.
d) Implement strategies to advance the development and expansion of the existing Arkansas Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) and increase utilization as a public health surveillance tool and clinical decision-making tool.
e) Increase collaboration with Public Health/ Public Safety to reduce fatal and non-fatal overdoses.
f) Utilize navigators to connect people to services.
g) Educate Arkansans on SUD topics, such as overdose, naloxone, and stigma.
h) Utilize peer support in the ALCC Call Center, university, and acute care clinics.