LAWTON, OK (KSWO) - Addiction and the Opioid Epidemic in Rural Oklahoma was the primary focus at a meeting in Lawton on Tuesday.
Leaders from the State Attorney General's Office along with several local and state law enforcement agencies, and healthcare leaders discussed the impact of the epidemic, and current addiction treatments.
Every week, 14 Oklahomans die of a drug overdose and 8 of those deaths are due to opioids. President of the Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences Doctor Kayse Shrum said the problem needs to be addressed.
"It's an issue that has gained national and state attention and recently President Trump declared a public emergency due to opioid addiction crisis. In Oklahoma we rank number 1 in the nation for non medical use of opioids," said Shrum.
One of the challenges Oklahomans face is having access to care, but Shrum hopes to over come that through the Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes or Echo. The program helps providers across the state provide specialty care to more people in under served communities.
"You know getting people to want to recognize that they have a family member who has a problem or they recognize that themselves have a problem where do they go for help who do they go talk too sometimes if that resource is far away they are less likely to access it so what we want to do is provide access points in every county across the state," said Shrum.
Deputy Attorney Joi Throp said Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter is also working to combat the problem through an Opioid Commission he created.
"What this commission does is it works with local law enforcement, and federal law enforcement as well as business owners in the medical community to work together to find a solution to fixing this major epidemic," said Throp.
As a former prosecutor Throp knows how opioids can affect people and their families.
"It's a cycle not only parents but children but this is really important that we do something in order to break that cycle so we can help children and future generations to come," said Throp.
Executive Director for the Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust John Woods said addiction to tobacco intersects with opioid addiction.
"For tobacco addiction in this state we lose 75 hundred Oklahoma every year to tobacco addiction and unfortunately many of those individuals suffer from addiction or mental health issues," said Woods.
Woods said education plays a huge role in stopping the epidemic.
"From health practitioners to family members to individuals who interact with folks at their work place giving them the tools to know what to look for and where to go too for assistance is a big component in that," said Woods.
Although Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter was scheduled to speak at the meeting today, his press secretary said he had a prior speaking engagement in Oklahoma City.
Hunter is scheduled to attend the Rural Oklahoma Summit tomorrow in Enid, and the meeting in Durant on Thursday.