GEORGE COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - It's an epidemic plaguing our state and leaders are joining forces to kick the habit. Stand Up, Mississippi hosted a town hall meeting Tuesday night in George County to discuss the staggering number of deaths directly linked to prescription pills. The organization also offered free help.
One person every eight minutes dies from an overdose. Every 15 minutes, a child is born addicted to prescription drugs. State leaders call it an opioid epidemic.
"Mississippi's not immune to what we're seeing in other parts of the country," said John Dowdy, director at the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics.
Last year in Mississippi alone, there were 256 overdose deaths; 75 percent of those were directly linked to opioids. The state is stepping in, hoping to help users kick the habit.
"We always start with the statistics," said Angela Mallette with Stand Up, Mississippi.
Stand Up, Mississippi is a statewide initiative to end the opioid crisis and inspire all Mississippians to work together to create a stronger and healthier future. Its primary goal is to improve public perception of people dealing with substance use disorder, strengthen policies for prevention and treatment, and promote statewide partnerships to combat the opioid crisis in Mississippi.
Mallette helped coordinate a town hall event between leaders. Representatives with the Department of Mental Health, Board of Pharmacy, the Drug Enforcement Agency, and more were all present.
Dowdy said his team has seen a significant increase in pharmacy burglaries in the state. "Over the last two years, we've had over a hundred pharmacy burglaries."
He said in each case, the suspect only went after prescription pills. And crimes aren't targeted only at businesses.
"We have the typical home invasions where people are going in looking for prescription drugs," Dowdy added.
It's a scary epidemic, but Stand Up, Mississippi's goal is to educate the public.
"And then we kinda turn the tune and talk about treatment options," Mallette said.
The Department of Mental Health is heading into the second year of a grant that pays for addiction treatment.
"We received a grant through the federal government to pay for detox, up to 90 days of treatment, and medicated assisted treatment if they so choose," said Mallette.
Right now there are 14 mental health centers across Mississippi reaping the benefits from this grant.
The next town hall meeting to discuss this growing epidemic in the Magnolia State will be held on June 24 in Biloxi. The location of that meeting has not yet been determined.
Stand Up, Mississippi is based out of Jackson. To reach them by phone, call (601) 359-6220. You can also get information and updates through the group's Facebook page. is hosting a town hall meeting in Biloxi on July 24. The location has not been announced. If you need help with prescription drug addiction, get more information HERE.