AG Hood: State must spend more on opioid crisis

Published 11:12 am Wednesday, June 28, 2017

By Kayleigh Skinner

Mississippi Today

BAY SPRINGS — Attorney General Jim Hood used an address to the Rotary Club here Monday to continue his criticism of the Mississippi Legislature.

Email newsletter signup

Lawmakers cut the budget irresponsibly during the previous session, he said, and failed to pass several options that would boost the state’s revenue.

But he also looked beyond budget issues to discuss the state’s struggles with opioid addiction.

Appropriations for the attorney general’s office were cut 14.2 percent cut during the special legislative session this month. Hood said his office would try to offset the loss of funds by keeping vacant positions open.

“We’re going to make due with what we have. We’re going to figure out some way to pay for it the best we can,” Hood said, referring to crime victim compensation, law enforcement and firefighter disability benefits, and various training programs his office administers.

Legislators could have passed a state lottery, adopted gas or internet sales taxes, and repealed tax cuts to big businesses as a way to fill holes in the state budget and provide more funds for roads and education, he said.

“They had plenty of options and they did nothing,” he said.

Before the Rotary luncheon, Hood told reporters that opioid addiction affects multiple demographics in counties across the state.

“It’s hitting every community,” he said.

According to the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics, deaths caused by heroin increased by 2,000 percent in the state between 2013 and 2016. The Department of Mental Health saw a 32 percent increase in admission for treatments related to heroin during the same time period.

“It starts out with a car wreck or something, they get on opioid medications and then they turn to heroin” when they run out of prescription medication, Hood said.

He warned luncheon attendees: “We’ve got to get out ahead of the game, because there is going to be a lot of expense to the state in the future for mental health care, treatment and rehabilitation.”

“We’re going to have to spend some money to save some of the people that have gotten addicted to opioids,” he added.

Hood said he hopes to settle litigation his office filed in 2015 against multiple drug manufacturers for misrepresenting the addictiveness of opioids. The 255-page complaint alleges drug companies used “common, sophisticated, and highly deceptive” marketing campaigns to “reverse the popular and medical understanding of opioids.”

They also created and disseminated “seemingly truthful scientific and educational materials that misrepresented the risks, benefits, and superiority of opioids used long-term to treat chronic pain,” according to the complaint.

Hood will continue to discuss the issue at the Mississippi Opioid and Heroin Summit next month, where those who work in public safety and public health and members of the community will meet in Madison to share stories and information about addiction.