Organizers of a town hall Tuesday in Gautier hope that anyone who has questions about the growing problems of opioid abuse and addiction in Mississippi will come to get answers and the help they need.
“For the people who may say, ‘My daughter is struggling right now, what do I do? That person will not leave that night without a phone number of someone to call,” said Angela Mallette, outreach coordinator with the Mississippi State Targeted Opioid Project.
According to the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics 2016 Executive Summary, Harrison and Jackson counties are the top two counties for opioid overdose deaths. The town halls are being held statewide, and the Gautier event is the second in South Mississippi and the 12th for the state.
The meeting is hosted in partnership with several Mississippi agencies, including the Department of Mental Health, the Department of Public Safety, the Bureau of Narcotics, the Board of Pharmacy and the Mississippi offices of the FBI.
The meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. at the Gautier Convention Center at 2012 Library Lane. After a presentation, and talks about treatment options, the floor will be open for questions from the crowd.
“Sometimes parents ask, ‘What do I do? How do I report this doctor?’ And sometimes doctors stand up and want to find out more information for themselves,” Mallette said.
She said that generally a mixture of people attend, and if someone is hesitant to speak out that printed information will be available for those who attend to take home.
“In Mississippi, one in 10 people misuse prescription drugs,” Diana Mikula, executive director of the Mississippi Department of Mental Health, said in a press release. “Opioids have a tremendous impact in all of our communities. Addiction doesn’t discriminate. It occurs in families from all walks of life.”
Prescription drug abuse has surged 400 percent in the past decade, and many teens now say it is easier to acquire prescription drugs than it is to buy beer. According to the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics, for the past three years there were 486 reported drug overdoses in Mississippi. Of those reported, 394 were opioid related.
In 2016, there were 3,574,662 prescriptions written and 201,224,298 dosage units dispensed for opioids in Mississippi. That equals to roughly 70 pills for every man, woman, and child in Mississippi.
While opioids are prescribed for legitimate needs, they can also be dangerous when misuse can lead to addiction.
“The partnerships we have are essential in helping us educate communities about the impact addiction is having on our state,” Mikula said. “If you or someone else needs help, we urge you to reach out. There are people throughout the state who want to help you get on the road to recovery.”
In September, the Mississippi Department of Mental Health, partnering with the 19th Judicial District Courts, provided Narcan nasal spray to law enforcement officers in Jackson, George and Green counties.
The spray can save the life of someone who is overdosing on opioids. The Harrison County Sheriff’s Department officers are scheduled to also receive the spray. Law enforcement officers are many times the first to arrive in critical overdose situations.
For information on the state town halls or deliveries of Narcan, call Mallette at 601-398-4406.
Opioids town hall
When: 6:30 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Gautier Convention Center, 2012 Library Lane, Gautier
Details: Angela Mallette, outreach coordinator with the Mississippi State Targeted Opioid Project, 601-398-4406.