Rutledge Ramps Up Investigation of Opioid ManufacturersWed, Jan 24, 2018
Says, ‘opioid manufacturers have profited substantially from the sale and distribution of opioids in Arkansas’
LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today announced that she has retained outside counsel to assist staff lawyers in investigating and potentially prosecuting certain pharmaceutical companies that have contributed to the opioid epidemic.
This investigation is an important step to stopping the rampant abuse and misuse of prescription medications. Arkansas has been disproportionately impacted by the opioid crisis with the number of drug overdose deaths in the state increasing from just over 100 in 1999 to more than 400 in 2016. Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control reports Arkansas has the second highest prescribing rate in the country, enough for each person in the state to have more than one opioid prescription in his or her name. Arkansas is also ranked highest in the nation for misuse of painkillers by students, ages 12-17 at 6.2 percent; the national average of 4.7 percent
“Many of these opioid manufacturers have profited substantially from the sale and distribution of opioids in Arkansas and should be held accountable for remedying the crisis they created,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “The identified law firms have been selected for their specialized expertise and resources to supplement the work of the staff attorneys so as not to take away from ongoing, important cases the office handles on a daily basis.”
Rutledge has entered into a contract with Dover Dixon Horne PLLC in Little Rock, Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP in Seattle, Washington, Mike Moore Law Firm and Davidson Bowie PLLC in Mississippi, and McGowan Hood and Felder in South Carolina. Dover Dixon Horne is a well-known and well-respected Little Rock law firm. The other law firms have extensive knowledge in similar complex litigation on behalf of government entities, and they presently represent the states of Ohio, Louisiana and Mississippi in lawsuits against the opioid manufacturers. The firms have been retained on a contingency fee basis according to Arkansas laws that allow the Attorney General’s office to supplement its own staff and resources with outside law firms. If successful in pursuing claims against opioid manufacturers who caused this crisis, the law firms will be paid according to Arkansas law. If the State is not successful, the firms will not get paid.
Today’s announcement is just the newest step in a multifaceted approach to solving the opioid crisis. In the fall, Rutledge launched a new program called Prescription for Life. Prescription for Life is a first-in-the-nation education initiative featuring a digital platform 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, it has been launched in 32 schools and reached over 2,100 students. Each year, Rutledge has partnered with a number of agencies in hosting the Arkansas Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Summit. The summit serves as a free training and educational opportunity for law enforcement officers, medical professionals, pharmacists and educators, and gives an opportunity to hear from experts regarding prescription drug abuse prevention and treatment. And in addition to the bi-annual Prescription Drug Take Back Day, Rutledge began partnering in 2016 with local law enforcement across the state to provide prescription drug take back boxes at every mobile office the Attorney General hosts yearly in all 75 counties which has already resulted in nearly 500 pounds of prescription drugs being safely disposed and out of reach of children and those with addictions.
Rutledge Applauds Supreme Court WOTUS DecisionTue, Jan 23, 2018
Says, ‘Today’s unanimous victory in the Supreme Court is a big win for Arkansans and proves the EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers cannot outwit the American legal system’
LITTLE ROCK – Attorney General Leslie Rutledge applauds today’s announcement by the Supreme Court to unanimously reverse the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals and reaffirm Arkansas’s decision to challenge that rule in federal district court. In August 2015, Arkansas and 12 other states were successful in securing a nationwide injunction in the U.S. District Court of North Dakota which challenged the definition of “Waters of the United States,” (WOTUS) against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Today’s Supreme Court decision reaffirms the District of North Dakota’s authority to enjoin the unlawful WOTUS rule.
“Today’s unanimous victory in the Supreme Court is a big win for Arkansans and proves the EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers cannot outwit the American legal system” said Attorney General Rutledge. “The swift and strategic response of our coalition of attorneys general in 2015 was the best way to address the political agendas of our overreaching federal government.”
The original WOTUS rule was issued in June 2015 and allowed the EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to assert expansive federal authority over a vast number of small bodies of water, roadside ditches, short-lived streams and any other area where water may flow once every 100 years. The EPA has proposed to rescind the WOTUS rule, and Rutledge and colleagues from 24 states have also filed comments urging the EPA to fully eliminate the Obama-era rule and enforce the pre-existing WOTUS definition.
Rutledge Urges EPA to Fully Rescind Clean Power PlanFri, Jan 19, 2018
Says, ‘the Clean Power Plan is both unlawful and bad policy’
LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today announced she has submitted a letter with 25 other states and state agencies encouraging the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to permanently rescind the so-called Clean Power Plan.
“Last fall, the EPA began rolling back the so-called Clean Power Plan,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “This was a great first step to redirect power back to the states. It is now time for the Plan to be completely rescinded. I urge EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to recognize that the Clean Power Plan is both unlawful and bad policy.”
The bipartisan coalition filed its public comment letter as part of the EPA’s proposed repeal of the Power Plan, encouraging the agency to eliminate the overreaching Obama-era rule and return authority to manage energy resources to the states.
Arkansas joined the West Virginia-led letter with attorneys general from Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming, along with the Louisiana Public Service Commission, the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality and the Mississippi Public Service Commission.
Rutledge Launches Prescription for Life in Morrilton High SchoolThu, Jan 18, 2018
Morrilton students get their first look at Prescription for Life
MORRILTON – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today continued to promote the first-in-the-nation education initiative called “Prescription for Life” at Morrilton High School. Prescription for Life was created by the Attorney General’s office and features a digital platform to help high school students in the State understand the dangers of prescription drug misuse and how to prevent abuse.
The Attorney General’s office is covering the cost of the program, which means Prescription for Life comes at no cost to participating schools in Arkansas. Since the program launched in September, it is now operating in 32 schools across the State and more than 2,100 Arkansas students have participated in Prescription for Life.
“Prescription for Life has started a conversation in many high schools across Arkansas about the dangers of abusing and misusing prescription medications,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Through this program, teachers and administrators are showing a commitment to tackling the opioid epidemic. It is my goal that this educational program will become a model for other states that will no doubt help save lives.”
Rutledge observed a health class of students going through the 30-minute course, which was followed up with a post-assessment survey to measure changes in students’ attitudes and behavior.
“We are excited to have Attorney General Rutledge to present her Prescription for Life program,” said Principal Danny Ketcherside. “I think it will greatly benefit our students and our community overall. The students and staff are excited about the new program and think it is going to be beneficial for them in the future.”
Using an evidence-based public health approach, the digital course empowers high school students with the skills and knowledge they need to make safe and healthy decisions about prescription drugs. The course is aligned with the Centers for Disease Control’s National Health Education Standards and State academic standards.
The self-paced modular course uses video, animations, simulations and interactivity to deliver a personalized, self-guided learning experience. The real-life simulations demonstrate the impact misuse can have on students’ physical and mental health, relationships and future goals while the scenario-based exercises help students practice how to support other students in their choices regarding the safe use of prescription drugs.
Educators from the Attorney General’s office are also available to conduct teacher in-service trainings in person and through webcasts and give presentations to parent and community groups throughout the State about how to talk with young people about risks associated with opioid use and how to recognize signs that their loved ones are abusing drugs.
The curriculum is part of the Attorney General’s already robust prescription drug abuse prevention initiative. During 2017, more than 160 pounds of prescription drugs were collected at Attorney General Mobile Offices across Arkansas.
Drug overdose deaths are on the rise in Arkansas, increasing from 287 in 2015 to 335 in 2016, according to data from the State Crime Lab. More than 40 percent of teenagers in Arkansas have tried prescription drugs and more than half of all teens report that it is easy to obtain prescription drugs from their parents’ or grandparents’ medicine cabinets. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that between 59,000 and 65,000 people died from drug overdoses in 2016, up from 52,404 in 2015 and double the death rate a decade ago. That is more than the number of deaths from car accidents in 2016. And according to the Centers for Disease Control, the majority of drug overdose deaths – six out of 10 – involve an opioid.
Find more information about the program and how to bring it to schools or other settings at ArkansasAG.gov.
Rutledge Participates in Conversations with Women of America event at the White HouseTue, Jan 16, 2018
Says, ‘Too often women are pigeon-holed as only caring about certain issues’
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Arkansas Attorney General released the following statement after attending the White House Conversations with Women of America event today.
“Too often women are pigeon-holed as only caring about certain issues when, in fact, all issues are women’s issues,” said Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “I am proud to stand on behalf of women in Arkansas and across the country in discussions with the Trump Administration about eliminating barriers to job creation and economic growth, ensuring we effectively combat the opioid epidemic and addressing concerns over illegal immigration and national security.”
Rutledge participated in panel discussions with top White House officials including Advisor to the President Ivanka Trump, Small Business Administration Administrator Linda McMahon, Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma, Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence Sue Gordon, Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand and Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson today to discuss economic development in rural states and communities; how the Administration plans to lead the efforts to combat the opioid abuse crisis; providing guidance and opportunities for states to combat fraud and abuses in our Medicaid systems; and how best to foster a healthier relationship between state and federal governments when targeting human trafficking.
President Donald J. Trump also made a surprise appearance at the event recognizing a handful of women including Attorney General Rutledge.
Rutledge Marks Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. DayMon, Jan 15, 2018
LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge released a statement today in observance of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday.
“On this day, we celebrate the life of Dr. King,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Let’s all take time to reflect on his accomplishments and commitment to ensuring freedom and justice for all across this country. The King holiday is not only a day of remembrance, but also a day of service as people across Arkansas and the country honor his memory by feeding the hungry, mentoring at-risk youth and finding other ways to serve their local communities.”
Rutledge will attend and give remarks at the Arkansas Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission’s Interfaith Prayer Breakfast from 8-9 a.m. at the Governor’s Mansion.