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Rutledge Marks International Overdose Awareness Day


August 31, 2017

Will use social media to remember 8 ‘Faces of Overdose’

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge will launch the “Faces of Overdose” social media campaign today to mark and raise awareness of International Overdose Awareness Day by remembering Arkansans lost to overdose.

International Overdose Awareness Day is a global event held on August 31st each year that aims to raise awareness of overdose and reduce the stigma of addiction. The day also acknowledges the grief felt by families and friends remembering those who have met with death or permanent injury as a result of a drug overdose.

“Albert, Jake, Will, Chelsea, Nicholas, Joshua, K.J. and Tristan were all Arkansans and all taken from this earth too soon because of a drug overdose,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Today we remember that these eight, along with many more, are not just statistics. They are sons, daughters, nieces, nephews and grandchildren. Their families live each day still coping with the pain of losing their loved ones to a drug addiction. As long as I am attorney general, they will have no stronger advocate.”

Beginning at 1 p.m. today, Rutledge will post images of these eight individuals on her Twitter and Facebook accounts. Over the course of the following eight hours, the Faces of Overdose campaign will drive home the sad reality that addiction and overdose are stealing an alarming number of young Arkansans who are leaving behind supportive and loving families.

The final “Face of Overdose” will be released at 8 p.m., when an International Overdose Awareness Day “cell light” vigil will begin at the Arkansas State Capitol in Little Rock. The theme of the event, organized by the William Christian Doerhoff Memorial Foundation, is “A Time to Remember – A Time to Act.”

Others supporting the “Faces of Overdose” campaign include Arkansas State Drug Director Kirk Lane, Arkansas Insurance Department, DEA, FBI, Parent Advocacy Group of Arkansas, Rotary Clubs of Arkansas and the University of Arkansas Criminal Justice Institute.

The Faces of Overdose will include the following: Albert Speed, Jake Agar, William Christian Doerhoff, Chelsea Lancaster, Nicholas Kellar, Joshua Pauley, K.J. Davis and Tristian Thomas.

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.

Nationally, 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.

In July, Rutledge announced the creation of a first-in-the-nation education initiative called “Prescription for Life,” featuring a digital platform to be offered at no cost to all high school students in the Arkansas to help them understand the dangers of prescription drug misuse and how to prevent abuse. The program will be available to high school students statewide beginning next month.

The new education curriculum is part of the Attorney General’s already robust prescription drug abuse prevention initiative. During 2016, more than 330 pounds of prescription drugs were collected at Attorney General Mobile Offices across Arkansas and 151 pounds have been collected since the beginning of 2017. The sixth annual Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Summit, hosted by Rutledge, is scheduled for Nov. 9 in Hot Springs, with almost 800 taking advantage of early bird registration.

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