Opioid settlement funds provide 15K Narcan kits to Arkansas law enforcement

By: - August 17, 2023 6:07 pm

Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders (at podium) speaks at a press conference at the Camp Robinson military base on Thursday, August 17, 2023, where more than 15,000 naloxone kits were available for city and county law enforcement across the state. Sanders thanked state agencies, legislators, the National Guard and the Arkansas Opioid Recovery Partnership for their work securing and distributing naloxone, a drug that reverses opioid overdose. (Tess Vrbin/Arkansas Advocate)

NORTH LITTLE ROCK — Law enforcement agencies from throughout Arkansas are collecting naloxone, a drug that reverses opioid overdose, at the Camp Robinson military base Thursday and Friday.

More than 15,000 kits of naloxone, known by the brand name Narcan, were available Thursday morning. Vehicles from municipal police and county sheriffs’ departments lined up outside the distribution center that the Arkansas Opioid Recovery Partnership, State Police and National Guard coordinated.

The Narcan kits cost $675,000 of the money that has been disbursed so far to Arkansas cities and counties as part of a national $26 billion settlement with three pharmaceutical distributors and one manufacturer.

In a press conference at Camp Robinson, Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders praised the efforts of law enforcement, state agencies and the Arkansas Opioid Recovery Partnership to distribute Narcan, a nasal spray that allows a person to breathe while experiencing an opioid overdose.

“I wish this wasn’t something that we’re dealing with, but as long as we are, we’re going to continue to help give our teams the resources that they need,” Sanders said.

In 2021, 45 people died each day from a prescription opioid overdose, totaling nearly 17,000 deaths nationwide, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s most recent data.

Arkansas will receive a total of $216 million over 18 years as part of the 2022 opioid settlement that includes 46 states, Washington D.C. and five territories.

A box of 24 doses of naloxone, commonly known as Narcan, available for Arkansas law enforcement agencies to pick up at Camp Robinson on Thursday, August 17 and Friday, August 18, 2023. (Tess Vrbin/Arkansas Advocate)

A memorandum of understanding signed in October 2021 formalized an agreement to split opioid settlement funds evenly between cities, counties and the state “when that resolution has been jointly entered into” by these three entities. The Association of Arkansas Counties and the Arkansas Municipal League formed the Arkansas Opioid Recovery Partnership last year to oversee the disbursement of the state’s opioid settlement money to cities and counties.

ARORP director Kirk Lane called naloxone “the most valuable harm reduction product on the market right now” in Thursday’s press conference. He said in an interview that ARORP distributed $1.7 million worth of naloxone in the past year.

Lane oversaw the first distribution of naloxone to Arkansas police and firefighters in 2017 when he was the state’s drug director. Since then, the program has saved more than 2,100 lives, said current state drug director Tom Fisher, whom Sanders appointed in February.

Representatives from the Marion County Sheriff’s Office and the Maumelle, Pangburn and Paragould police departments came to pick up naloxone kits Thursday morning.

The Maumelle Police Department has “been able to save several people over the past couple years” with naloxone, which is on hand in every patrol car, Chief Cory Pickard said.

Officer Jeremy Wrzesinski drove more than two hours from Lake Village, a small city in the Delta, to pick up the police department’s first-ever naloxone supply.

“[Opioid overdose] is not in abundance, but it’s inevitable, and you need to be prepared when it happens,” Wrzesinski said in an interview.


Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Tess Vrbin
Tess Vrbin

Tess Vrbin came to the Advocate from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, where she reported on low-income housing and tenants' rights, and won awards for her coverage of 2021 flooding and tornado damage in rural Arkansas. She previously covered local government for The Commercial Dispatch in Mississippi and state government for the Columbia Daily Tribune in Missouri.