EAST TEXAS (KLTV)
County by County the East Texas Substance Abuse Coalition is working to combat the opioid epidemic. Last week, President Donald Trump declared the epidemic a public health emergency. As the coordinator of the substance abuse coalition, Susan Anderson, says residents in this area are at risk.
"When you're looking at the areas that are the highest prescribing they're often rural predominantly white and there's a high density of physicians and dentists,” says Anderson. "All of these areas in East Texas fit that demographic."
Smith county and Rusk county are among the top three areas in the region with the highest percentage of opioid prescriptions filled.
"Anytime you look at places that prescribe more that's just a good indicator to know there's a potential for an opioid problem," says Anderson.
Last July, Smith County set out to combat that problem by installing prescription drug drop boxes as a tool for proper opioid disposal. Since then, 300 pounds of unused opioids has been collected.
"Because it's done so well we wanted to make sure that there was one that was one that was going to be available for Rusk County residents," says Anderson.
This week the coalition teamed up with the Rusk County Sheriff's Office to install a prescription drug drop box in the county jail.
"A lot of people don't realize how many drugs we take off the street every day,” says Rusk County Sheriff Jeff Price. “On natural deaths, people who pass away at home and stuff and all their medications we've got to do something with them."
With hopes to install more drop boxes throughout East Texas, Anderson says the coalition's goal is to make proper disposal the norm.
"Just knowing that people are making a conscious effort to go there and drop off their unused prescription drugs is just always a good sign,” says Anderson. "We want to make it so that it is as convenient as possible."