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Partnership urged to fight drug abuse

Law enforcement officials and members of the medical field discussed the rampant nature of prescription drug abuse at a forum Thursday night meant to bring the two professions together to discuss the problem.

“Our young folks are choosing prescription drugs as readily as they are choosing marijuana,” said Lincoln County District Attorney Dee Bates. “We need to turn the tide on this. We’re going in the wrong direction on this in a lot of ways.”

The forum was hosted by the 14th Circuit Drug Court and King’s Daughters Medical Center.

Circuit Court Judge Michael Taylor described his vision for the forum as simple: to get doctors, pharmacists and other medical field workers in the room with enforcement agencies to forge connections he hopes will prove beneficial to both.

That was a view shared by other forum speakers.

“If we’re not going to work together, then this problem is not going to get solved,” said Tim Vanderslice, commander of the Southwest Mississippi Narcotics Unit.

Beyond creating connections, forum organizers indicated that they hoped increased communication concerning available resources would be of benefit.

These resources include the Mississippi Prescription Monitoring Program, which was mentioned multiple times throughout the night.

This program allows medical professionals to report the drugs they’re prescribing or dispensing to patients and to obtain a report of the drugs a given patient has received and thereby potentially flag suspicious behavior.

Other speakers Thursday night included Keith Starrett, a federal judge for Mississippi’s Southern District of the United States District.

He also underscored the significance of the problem and discussed how it has developed over his career.

“It blew me away when I saw the real breadth and depth of the prescription drug abuse problem,” Starrett said.

However, that was years ago. Things have only gotten worse, he believes.

“We’ve come light years since then, and we’ve gone backward, not forward,” Starrett said.

Taylor also compared the prevalence of prescription drug abuse as compared to banned substances, using a bit of humor to do so.

“You’d go broke trying to grow marijuana in Lincoln County,” Taylor said. “You’d do better with turnips.”