OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Commission on Opioid Abuse met at the Capitol to hear about law enforcement’s challenges in combating the opioid epidemic. But at the end of the day it all comes down to cash and with a $215 million budget shortfall, the state is fresh out.
The numbers are staggering. Last year 52,000 Americans overdosed on opioids. Here in Oklahoma, 3,000 people have died because of opioid abuse in the past three years.
Experts say the state isn’t allocating the resources to keep up with the epidemic.
“A key to this issue is treatment,” said Oklahoma Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services Director Terri White. “We have to fight this on the demand side. Because it is nearly impossible to win this on the supply side. Can’t do that without cash, can we? It is absolutely about resources.”
Resources the cash-strapped state doesn’t have.
“The overriding problem in Oklahoma right now is funding. In every area of our society funding is lacking to provide the resources that we need,” said Washington County DA Kevin Buchanan.
So the board will present its findings to lawmakers, hoping the legislature can find the cash to combat the epidemic.
“It’s important for us to be able to make that case when we go back to the legislature in December and January with a report. And part of being smart on crime is you gotta be smart on funding,” said Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter.
Buchanan added, “If people are dying there can be no more serious issue for our citizens of our state.”
Meanwhile drug companies are asking a Cleveland county judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the attorney general’s office, accusing them of lying to doctors about how addictive opioids are. The attorney general says he expected the motion and isn’t concerned about it.