LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today toured the Arkansas State Crime Lab in Little Rock and announced a $250,000 allocation for essential transportation related to opioid deaths across Arkansas. According to the Arkansas State Crime Lab, there were at least 493 drug overdose deaths in 2021; 281 of those were caused by fentanyl and 43 autopsies are still pending. In 2020, there were 329 drug overdose related deaths with 148 caused by fentanyl and in 2019 there were 263 drug overdose related deaths with 80 caused by fentanyl. The allocation will help the State Crime Lab transport victims of opioid overdose to the crime lab for an autopsy and determine the exact cause of death.
“Deadly illegal drugs, such as fentanyl, are continuing to devastate families on all sides of Arkansas and we must work together to combat the crisis,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “The State Crime Lab plays a critical role in investigating overdose deaths and this allocation will continue to assist Arkansas in our fight to eliminate the opioid epidemic.”
“I’ve always said that in forensic science we see the worst things that one human being can do to another,” said Arkansas State Crime Lab director Kermit B. Channell II. “Now we see how opioids and illicit drugs are affecting society and the citizens of Arkansas. The cases we see touch everyone and no crime is victimless.”
The State Crime Lab in Little Rock is currently the only fully-functional forensic laboratory in the state. Services include Physical Evidence, DNA and DNA Databasing, Firearms/Toolmarks, Digital Evidence, Forensic Chemistry, Latent Prints, Toxicology, and Forensic Pathology. The laboratory accepts evidence from investigations originating anywhere in Arkansas, both state and federal.
Attorney General Rutledge has taken an aggressive approach to protecting Arkansans and combating the epidemic by suing manufacturers Johnson & Johnson, Purdue Pharma and Endo Pharmaceuticals for violations of the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act (ADTPA), public nuisance, unjust enrichment, civil conspiracy, and the Arkansas Medicaid Fraud False Claims Act. She had also filed a lawsuit against distributors Cardinal Health, McKesson Corporation and AmerisourceBergen Drug Corporation for violations of the ADTPA, negligence, creation of a public nuisance and being unjustly enriched by their business practices. In March 2021, Rutledge also filed suit against Walgreens for its role in fueling the opioid crisis in Arkansas and across America.
In February 2022, Attorney General Rutledge announced the final approval of the $26 billion opioid agreement with the nation’s three major pharmaceutical distributors – Cardinal, McKesson and AmerisourceBergen – as well as Johnson & Johnson. Arkansas is receiving $216 million that will be split equally between cities, counties and the state, according to the Arkansas Opioids Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) agreement. The funding must be used to support treatment, recovery, harm reduction, and other strategies to address the opioid epidemic.
Additional data regarding the impact that the opioid epidemic has had on Arkansas may be found here.