Original Article from THV11

 6:23 PM CDT June 7, 2023

BENTON, Ark. — The Arkansas opioid epidemic is an ongoing problem, but multiple organizations, including law enforcement, are working tirelessly to curb it.

New funding through the Arkansas Opioid Recovery Partnership (AOPR) allowed the Benton Police Department to form an overdose response team.

Benton Police Chief Scotty Hodges hopes the $401,000 grant will make a difference for the community.

“One of our goals of this program is to save lives,” Hodges said. “In saving the addict’s life, we’re also going to change the lives of their friends and family.”

Hodges said the police department is creating two new positions — an opioid investigator and a peer recovery specialist.

“The goal is to educate, to let them know that we’re out there,” Hodges said. “We’re not just there to arrest or to charge. We’re there to help them to change their lives back to normal.”

The grant also allows the police department to purchase new equipment for investigations.

“Cameras and things like that,” Hodges said. “That would help us in opioid investigations.”

According to AORP Director Kirk Lane, the overdose problem is worsening.

“618 people died last year from a drug overdose,” Lane said. “You got to realize those are people; they’re brothers, sisters, moms, dads, children’s uncles, aunts.”

Hodges said it’s also getting worse in the City of Benton.

“In 2020, we had 56 attempts,” Hodges said. “That’s not just opioids. That’s all attempts of suicide… 2021 there were 73.. in 2022 there were 81.”

He said the overdose response team is a step in the right direction to try to decrease those numbers.

“We’re going to try to get them the help they need and provide resources to them,” Hodges said.

Lane said multiple agencies have similar programs, and they’ve seen positive results so far.

“It makes them better public oriented to try to solve the problem instead of just trying to arrest a way out of it,” Lane said.

The Benton Police Department is hiring to fill the new positions on the overdose response team.

Later on, Hodges wants to see it evolve into a county-wide program.


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