Alabama looking for ways to tackle opioid crisis

State / Regional

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WIAT) — When describing the opioid situation in Alabama, most people hear words like “crisis” and “epidemic.” Experts say all of those are true when talking about this deadly problem.

“We certainly characterize it as a crisis, we certainly do,” said Lynn Beshear, commissioner of the Alabama Department of Mental Health.

Beshear knows the crisis affects millions of people, such as Ebony Vaughn, who is one of many in Alabama who are seeking help with addiction through the Council on Substance Abuse, or COSA. She said she’s doing it to save her own life.

“Overdoses is an all-of-a-sudden thing, you’re use to being around your friends that you get high with, you don’t realize that it could be over that instantly,” Vaughn said.

Today, Vaughn has surpassed 100 days of recovery from a number of drugs like Percocet, crack cocaine, alcohol and Xanax.

Shereda Finch is the executive director of COSA, one of many recovery programs in Alabama that are partially funded through state funds.

“We are helping them address some of the needs that are pretty general such as housing and employment,” Finch said. “Something as simple as helping someone get their birth certificate or state ID.”

Finch sits on the Gov. Kay Ivey’s Opioid Overdose and Addiction Council, where she said their work is bringing different groups together.

“From law enforcement to your medical providers, to your education system, to your health systems the conversations are taking place,” she said.

Beashear, who is also on the council, said she believes one of the big problems in the crisis is doctors who issue too many prescriptions.

“Instead of prescribing opioids, maybe Tylenol and Advil can be a good pain reliever,” she said.

Next year, the state’s opioid response budget will see a decrease from $20 million to $13 million dollars.

The council will deliver their report to Ivey on Dec. 31. From there, there could be potential legislation developed to target opioid response in Alabama.


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