Sebastian County opioid abuse worsens social issues, officials say

Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series examining opioid prescriptions and abuse in Sebastian County.

By Max Bryant
Southwest Times Record

Sebastian County officials say a number of local social issues are worsened by opioid abuse.

In the latest available data, Sebastian County was near the top of Arkansas for several opioid-related issues, including painkiller prescribing and drug overdose death rates. County officials say such a presence of opioids in the county worsen issues that they have dealt with for years.

“All of society is paying for this,” said Sebastian County Sheriff Bill Hollenbeck.

Filling the jail

Hollenbeck said the over-prescription and abuse of opioids leads to a high number of arrests related to the drugs.

In 2017, 355 inmates who spent time in the Sebastian County Detention Center were arrested on suspicion of possession of Schedule I and II opioid-type prescriptions, which includes Hydrocodone. Hollenbeck said some of these arrests were on suspicion of possession of the substances with intent to deliver.

“Hydrocodone is one of the most highly used drugs that we see on the streets,” said Sheriff’s Office Capt. Philip Pevehouse.

The county jail, which contains 356 beds for inmates, suffered from an inmate population that exceeded 500 at times in 2017. The 355 inmates who were arrested on suspicion of possession of Schedule I or II opioid-type prescriptions in 2017 could almost fill the jail to capacity.

At 154.6 per 100,000 people, Sebastian County led Arkansas in arrests for selling, manufacturing or possessing opioids from 2011-15, according to county arrest records. When the 355 arrests are averaged against the county’s 2016 population, the latest available year for such data, Sebastian County averaged 277.8 arrests for possession of Schedule I or II opioids per 100,000 people in 2017.

This figure doesn’t even contain all opioid-related arrests in Sebastian County.

“We haven’t even looked into ... the smaller-scheduled drugs that are also opioid-based,” Hollenbeck said.

Like any other kind of arrest, opioid-related arrests in Sebastian County cost county taxpayers money. Hollenbeck estimated each inmate costs between $50-$60 to keep in the jail per day.

Opioid-related arrests, however, present a host of other costs, Hollenbeck said.

“What if they have to go to the hospital because of withdrawal, or what if they get hurt because they’re going through withdrawal and they haven’t been a good neighbor to their cellmate, and then they get injured in a fight or whatever it might be?” Hollenbeck said. “It’s hard to put a dollar figure on this.” Read more.

Rainwater, Hold & Sexton Injury Lawyers 800-434-4800

Guardian Pro RFID and AAC Risk Management Fund mitigate risks for Arkansas jails