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New training aims to curb opioid deaths in Arkansas

The opioid epidemic continues to wreak havoc across the nation, including here in Arkansas.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Police investigators are getting some additional guidance to address the deadly drug head on.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration is recognizing Tuesday as National Fentanyl Awareness Day.

Leaders hope events like this can bring awareness to the drug that is killing thousands around the country.

Law enforcement investigators have been training all day to listen and learn ways to spread awareness as well as how to respond to scenes where someone has overdosed.

"Going to this class, you know, kind of gives us you know, another tool under our belt," said James Melton, an investigator with the Cross County Sheriff's Department.

He hopes people will find the program beneficial and get the opioid crisis under control.

"We're just basically learning how to work the overdose deaths that we're having in our counties and cities," Melton said.

Dr. Cheryl May is the director at the University of Arkansas Criminal Justice Institute.

She said more than 30 officers from around the state are in Little Rock for an Advanced Overdose Investigation class.

"It trains them to look at things at that crime scene that can help them trace the source of that opioid," Melton said.

The training officers are getting is something Arkansas Drug Director Kirk Lane knew must happen as the opioid overdoses continues to rise here in Arkansas.

"Any illicit drug use today could be a fatal overdose situation," Lane said.

The numbers are alarming.

Nationally, there were more than 100,000 opioid overdose deaths last year.

That's about 280 a day.

Here in the Natural State, Lane said the CDC predicts more than 600 overdose deaths in 2021.

"About 66% of those overdose deaths are due to illicit Fentanyl, either by itself, or many times it mixed into other drugs," Lane said.

Lane adds for years, overdose deaths weren't investigated.

Now, there is a push from the agency and law enforcement to spend more time searching for clues after an overdose.

"Using that time to start an investigation to hold people responsible and to give people good resources to get help," Lane said.

It's training that people like Melton are happy to undergo.

"We can kind of track where their stuff is coming from, we can put a stop to it," Melton said.

Lane also said four out of 10 illegal and fake pills that are out on the streets contain a lethal dose of Fentanyl.

He added it only takes a few grains of Fentanyl for things to turn deadly.

One gram is enough to kill at least 500 people.

To see more information about what to do is someone near you has overdosed or drug take back information, visit here: https://narcansas.com/