Ground zero for the opioid epidemic in the Mid-South is DeSoto County, and community leaders, medical and mental health providers and law enforcement are convening a summit in Southaven on Aug. 1 to deal with the issue.
Mississippi ranks No. 1 in the number of heroin and opioid-related deaths in Mississippi.
The summit, or "Town Hall Rally to Address the Impact of Opioids" will be held at Landers Center in Southaven at 6:30 p.m.
The event is being sponsored by the Mississippi Board of Pharmacy, Mississippi Department of Mental Health, Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics, the Mississippi Department of Public Safety, the U.S. Department of Justice's Drug Enforcement Administration and the Jackson Division of the FBI.
DeSoto County Coroner Jeff Pounders said during a telephone interview Tuesday there have been 18 heroin and opioid-related overdose deaths in DeSoto County since January.
"We are No. 1 in the state in heroin and opioid deaths," said Pounders, adding that Hinds and Harrison counties lead the state in the general category of overdose deaths.
"I think this meeting is a good idea," said Pounders. "They've had similar meetings in Madison and Tupelo and other places. I think the more general information that you can get out there, the better. It's good for families who have loved ones who are addicted and are having problems and it's good for those who are addicted as well to hear about the dangers of opioid addiction. Maybe you might scare some people. Maybe you might save a life."
The event will feature a formal presentation by experts as well as a question and answer period from those in attendance.
Turning Point Addiction Treatment Center Director of Operations Stacy Dodd and his team will be among the participants, including the newly-formed Addiction at Home Intervention team.
"The main thing we wish to do is to bring awareness of the seriousness of the problem," Dodd said. "We've probably just seen the tip of the iceberg. It's getting worse by the minute. Until everyone stands together, we can't solve the problem. We can't arrest our way of this epidemic. We can't throw everyone in jail. We also can't enable them (victims). We have to support and love these families out of it. If law enforcement and treatment centers work together, we'll maybe have a chance."
One local parent who has dealt firsthand with opioid abuse and death is Bobby Cooper, whose daughter Jessica, 24, died of an opioid overdose, heads up a crisis intervention team that seeks to prevent opioid addiction deaths. He addressed the opioid issue in a recent interview.
"I encourage parents to go into counseling immediately — don't put it off," Cooper said. "Love that addict. Love is the only thing that can beat addiction."
Robert Lee Long is Community Editor of the DeSoto Times-Tribune. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 662-429-6397, Ext. 252.