DROP Task Force combats opioid addiction
Students, school and city officials, business owners and law enforcement attend a Jan. 22 event hosted by the Mayes County Drug Reduction Outreach Program Task Force at the Pryor High School Burdick Center. The event was held to educate students on the consequences of drug addiction. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
The Mayes County Drug Reduction Outreach Program Task Force meets on Jan. 5 at the Pryor Public Library to discuss ways to expand its campaign and educate the public on the drug addiction and overdose deaths. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
PRYOR – The Mayes County Drug Reduction Outreach Program (DROP) Task Force, formed by Mayes County citizens, is attempting to drop the number of area drug addiction cases and overdose deaths.
In 2016, more than 4.5 million opioid-based drugs were picked up at pharmacies in a county of 40,920 residents. That number equates to 112 pills per resident.
Pryor Police Assistant Chief James Willyard brought together city officials, community members, law enforcement and health care representatives to combat overdoses and deaths from opiates.
“Our mission is to bring together and figure out as a community, as a whole, how do we fix this problem,” he said.
Mayes County is No. 2 in the Cherokee Nation’s 14-county jurisdiction in overdose deaths.
“Opioids are tearing our families apart and something must be done. When Officer Willyard approached me with the idea of a countywide campaign to combat opioid usage, I knew I wanted to help,” Tribal Councilor Janees Taylor said.
Taylor donated $5,000 from CN Community Improvement funds to the group. She said the CN has taken a leadership role to combat the opioid crisis by finding ways in its health care system to seek alternate methods of treating pain without the ongoing use of opiates.
The task force started in 2017 and now has 20 to 30 members wanting to help.
Willyard said many people in certain areas of expertise have filled in the gaps and helped the task force reach its goal. Teresa Carnes, a CN citizen and ROCMND Partnerships for Success coordinator, is one of those people.
“We’re very passionate about changing and getting people help, stopping things from happening. There’s too many people dying. There’s too many families that are ruined. They’re destroyed. Too many things happening, and we’re trying to change that,” Carnes said.
The task force began its campaign on Jan. 22 at Pryor High School. Emceed by Tulsa’s Channel 6 journalist Lori Fullbright, the task force wanted to educate high school students about the consequences of drug abuse.
Inside the school’s Burdick Center, 725 bleacher seats were blocked off to show the number of deaths in Oklahoma caused by the opioid epidemic in 2016.
Businesses owners, school and city officials as well as law enforcement were on hand to show support for the campaign. Brian Surber, a district attorney first assistant, said all demographics of people, no matter the their background, are subject to opioid usage.
“Kids who haven’t used, even people who haven’t used, it’s very important to tell them ‘this is a very addictive tablet,’” Surber said. “For the campaign, that’s why I think it should be for everybody this concerns because I don’t care what your background is, if you are prescribed a pain medication that’s where it starts.”
The task force is working on placing safe storage, disposal and drop boxes around Mayes County, creating promotional items and educating the public on the consequences of using opioid-based painkillers.
“Our main goal is to reduce the number of opioid deaths in Mayes County,” Willyard said.
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