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Opioid crisis: Miller, other AR counties sue drug companies

Updated: Dec. 27, 2017 at 11:05 PM CST
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MILLER COUNTY, AR (KSLA) - An alarming statistic ranks Arkansas the second-highest state in the nation for the number of opioid prescriptions.

The County Judges Association of Arkansas says only Alabama has a higher rate.

And the association says it is time to try to recoup some of the costs of the opioid epidemic on local communities and counties.

So Miller County leaders have joined their counterparts in other Arkansas counties in a class-action lawsuit against a number of pharmaceutical companies to combat drug addiction.

"This has to stop. And one of the thing that is going to stop it is this lawsuit," Miller County Judge Roy McNatt said.

The main focus of the lawsuit is heroin and other opioid-related drugs, he said.

"And we think we are being oversedated over the use of them and then you are getting addicted to it."

Miller County Correctional Center is like other county jails in Arkansas with a large population of inmates with addictions to prescribed and illicit drugs.

"When these offenders are booked into our facility because of the direct correlation of narcotics abuse," Miller County sheriff's Capt. Mark Lewis said.

Jail officials say such inmates now have to receive special treatment at a cost to the county.

"It requires increase manpower, increases surveillance. We have to monitor and segregate those individuals so there is an increased cost in detention facilities," Lewis said.

The Association of Arkansas Counties has formed a task force to combat the epidemic with the goals of creating an educational program to increase public awareness of the dangers of opioids.

McNatt said officials not only hope the lawsuit will help counties financially but will assist those with an addiction to help overcome the habit.

"We want to try and stop this as much as we can, start lowering these people down out of jail back into the work force back as productive citizens. That is going to be a great thing if we get this done," the judge said.

McNatt noted that joining the lawsuit is not costing Miller County taxpayers any money.

So far this year, more than 1,000 people have died from opioid overdoses in Arkansas.

Arkansas ranks the top 20 percent in the nation.

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