HATTIESBURG, MS. - Multiple agencies are hosting Town Hall meetings across the state to teach residents about the effects and impact of opioid addiction.
More than a hundred people in the Hattiesburg community came together Tuesday night at the Lake Terrace Convention Center to listen about the opioid epidemic in Mississippi.
According to the Department of Mental Health 1 in 10 people in Mississippi misuse prescription drugs.
“The crisis that we see in Mississippi is growing" said Steve Parker Deputy Director with the MS Board of Pharmacy.
Special Agent FBI Christopher Freeze said, “It is an extreme problem for the entire state of Mississippi and for the United States as a whole."
Prescription drug abuse has surged 400% in the past decade according to officials. Officials said it is easier for teens to get their hands on prescription drugs than it is to buy beer.
Freeze said, “Our ability to partner with MBN, DEA, Department of Public Safety, Mental Health, that is the only way we can combat this problem if everybody being together and approaching it with all the resources that they have.”
According to the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics, for the past three years there were 486 reported drug overdoses in Mississippi. Of those reported, 394 were opioid related.
“We hope to eradicate them, but at least get them under control, and start seeing a reduction rather than increase in opioid death is more important to us" said Parker.
In 2016, there were 3,574,662 prescriptions written and 201,224,298 dosage units dispensed for opioids in Mississippi.
Officials said drug misuse in Mississippi has risen so much, the public needs better treatment platforms.
Michael Jordan with the Mississippi Department of Mental Health said, “Addiction is a disease and there is no barriers to addiction."
He added, "There is no socioeconomic status, there is no gender, there is no race. There is nothing that prevents someone from having a disease of addiction.”
“I used to think it was not a disease, it is a disease, just like mental health is" said Marshall Fisher the Commissioner of Public Safety.
Fisher said the public needs to change their perception on opioid addiction. “I think we need to look from a Public health standpoint, how to not stigmatize drug addiction, and mental health problems as we have and treat them more like we would treat someone with diabetes" Fisher said.
Officials said those that attend the town hall meetings across the state need to stay informed. “We would have done good and it would all be worth it, if we could just save just one life" said Parker.
July 11-13 there will be an Opioid and Heroin Mississippi Drug Summit in Madison.