As the opioid epidemic continues to rage across the nation, Gov. Phil Bryant issued an executive order creating an Opioid and Heroin Study Task Force.

The order, posted to Facebook on Tuesday afternoon, follows similar orders in such demographically diverse states as New York and North Dakota. Bryant said the task force’s primary goal would be to recommend strategies for fighting the opioid and heroin epidemic in Mississippi.

“We are committed to protecting our citizens from the scourge of drug abuse and addiction,” Bryant said in a statement that accompanied his post.

The United States is in the midst of a drug overdose epidemic, with 47,000 people dying of a drug overdoses in 2014, more than any other year on record.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, heroin and prescription opioids, such as oxycodone and fentanyl, account for the majority of these overdoses.

Much of the fight against the epidemic has centered on reining in prescriptions for these medications. In August, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy asked physicians to sign a pledge to responsibly prescribe opioids, noting that 2 million Americans currently suffer from a prescription opioid addiction. In 2012, 12 states had more opioid prescriptions than people. Mississippi ranked sixth, with 120.3 prescriptions for every 100 people.

Gov. Bryant will appoint members to the task force, who will meet as often as necessary, according to the executive order.

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Larrison Campbell is a Greenville native who reports on politics with an emphasis on public health. She received a bachelor’s from Wesleyan University and a master’s from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.Larrison is a 2018 National Press Foundation fellow in public health, a 2019 Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation of Massachusetts fellow in health care reporting and a 2019 Center for Health Journalism National Fellow.

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