Mayes County Leaders Form Task Force To Fight Opioid Epidemic
MAYES COUNTY, Oklahoma - Oklahoma starts the new year with an old problem: people dying from painkiller overdoses.
On average, 1,000 people die from drug overdoses a year, and the vast majority are caused by opioids.
Mayes County is near the top of that list, so a group of citizens has resolved to fight back.
In 2016, Mayes County had 4,583,585 pills picked up at pharmacies. That's enough for every person in the county to have 112 pills each last year.
To think about it another way, it's enough for every person in the state of Oklahoma and the state of Wyoming to have a pill and still have 74,000 left over.
The leaders of the community say something has got to change.
To tackle the issue of prescription painkiller overdoses, citizens, business owners, judges, DA's, schools and law enforcement officers created the Drop Task Force, which stands for: Drug Reduction Outreach Project.
"Most people think kick in the door type drug task force, but that's not what we are,” said
Pryor Police Assistant Chief James Willyard. “As a community, how do we come together to solve this problem?"
He says in the Cherokee County nation, minus Tulsa, Mayes County ranks second in overdose deaths.
"People are dying and don't know this is a problem,” said Willyard. “They think because it comes from a doctor, they are safe and that's absolutely not the case."
He says many people get painkillers after an injury or surgery and become addicted before they know it. He says people also take the pills with alcohol or differently than prescribed.
"Our main goal is educate, educate, educate,” he stated.
They kick off their campaign later this month with assemblies at the schools, then will add drop boxes so people can safety get rid of their pills. And they'll get first responders outfitted with Narcan, a drug that saves people from opiate overdoses.
The task force says now that they know how bad the problem is in Mayes County, they're asking the community to help stop it because they don't want to see another person die.